FOLEY — Members of the Baldwin County Military Officer Association of America honored the lives of fallen soldiers who served in the Vietnam War and their family members by presenting them with …
FOLEY — Members of the Baldwin County Military Officer Association of America honored the lives of fallen soldiers who served in the Vietnam War and their family members by presenting them with a certificate and pin at a luncheon.
The Gift Horse Restaurant welcomed attendees on Sept. 21 with food and drinks before honoring the families. Gold Star Mothers and Family Day is a time to honor the surviving family members of fallen service members.
This tradition is observed in the U.S. on the last Sunday in September and is recognized by the U.S. Congress. The term "Gold Star" has its roots in World War I, when Americans displayed flags in their homes, businesses, schools and churches adorned with a blue star to represent family members serving in the military. If that family member made the ultimate sacrifice, a gold star was placed over the blue one, symbolizing their honor.
During the MOAA luncheon, the families of Warrant Officer Denis Blackmon and Sgt. Grady Eiland were recognized.
Blackmon, a helicopter pilot in the 174th Assault Helicopter Company, 14th Aviation Battalion, U.S. Army, passed away in October 1967 when his helicopter went down.
Antionette Blackmon Marks, the widow of the Vietnam War helicopter pilot, accepted the certificate and pin with a heart full of gratitude for her late husband.
"He was a wonderful man," Mark said.
She shared that the news of her husband's passing had been unexpected, and in that moment, it felt as though her own life had come to an end.
"Through the help of good friends, I have come out of it. He is always on my mind," she said.
Eiland served in Company M, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Division, U.S. Marine Corps, as a sergeant and rifleman. In July of 1970, he was involved in hostile arms fire.
His brothers and sisters were presented certificates and pins in honor of their fallen brother.
Betty Eiland Morris, Eiland's sister, reflected on their father's teachings. He had also served in the U.S. military and instilled in them a deep respect for all veterans and military personnel. With tears welling up in her eyes, she expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to remember her brother.
"Daddy taught us to respect all of your veterans, all of your military personnel regardless," Morris said.
Other siblings, such as Della Eiland Gebhart, spoke of memories she has with her late brother along with writing letters to him while he was serving.
"It's not like having him at home," she said. "I thank the Lord for taking him immediately."