Gold Star Families are people who have lost relatives while in active service to their country. The installation and Navy Region Southeast have recognized these families as part of the Gold Star program for the past several years with a tree decorated with ornaments dedicated to lost military members.
“I want to thank the Gold Star Family team for all they do – the care and love they have for our fallen shipmates,” Rear Adm. Wesley McCall, Commander Navy Region Southeast, said before he turned the switch to light the tree. “It being the holiday season, I can only imagine the memories that this time of year brings back and I hope it is a comfort to know you have a family here in the Navy.”
The tree was set up inside NAS Jacksonville’s Fleet and Family Support Center, and was decorated with red, white and blue lights in addition to photo ornaments of 72 fallen heroes from Florida and the Caribbean.
Gold Star family member Melissa Recker attended the event to honor her husband, Petty Officer Jason Recker who died last year. “It’s hard,” she said. “Last year was such a blur. We’re just blessed the Gold Star people brought us together and helped us get through that time.”
Johnny Causey, who lost his wife, Cmdr. Aquilla Causey eight years ago, emphasized that the real value of the program is the camaraderie with other Gold Star Families.
“It’s about being in the same shoes. Who else to better understand what you are going through than someone who has experienced the same things?”
Duval, Clay and St. Johns counties are home to about 90 Gold Star families.
The mission of the Navy Gold Star Program is to provide support to surviving family members of service members who died while on active duty, regardless of your loved one's military branch, location, or manner of death.
The tree lighting is just one event of many throughout the year that brings the families together socially, and expresses the Navy’s appreciation of their loved ones.
“Survivors have made the ultimate sacrifice and this is one way to remember these fallen heroes,” said Rufus Bundrige, the Navy Region Southeast Gold Star coordinator. “We can never repay you. We can only say ‘thank you, thank you, thank you.”
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