Gold star families remember fallen sons in Memorial Day ceremony
SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - Families from all over the U.S. are pausing to remember the service men and women who have given their lives, including those here on the Suncoast. Dozens of people gathered at the Sarasota National Cemetery to pay respects to generations of fallen veterans.
Recognition at these ceremonies means everything to the “Gold Star Families.” The designation is assigned as a badge of honor for those who lost loved ones to war.
Shannon Mesenburg and Kim Hayes, who were part of the ceremony, understand sudden losses all too well; both of them have lost their sons because of their service.
Shannon’s son, Senior Airman XinHua Mesenburg, was a proud member of the U.S Air Force for years util he tragically took his own life. She describes Xinhua as a gentle soul who loved to laugh and devoted everything to the Air Force.
“He truly loved the service, he loved the Air Force,” she said when ABC7 asked what she wants everyone to remember about her son. “He wanted to be a lifer, and that he tried to do good in this world.”
Kim reflected on her son’s life too.
She explained how Specialist Steven Taylor Hayes served in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. Because of a serious parachuting accident, he suffered brain injuries until those wounds eventually caused his death.
Kim said her son lived to serve his country, remembering how much he treasured his returns into the United States.
“The day he got back from Afghanistan he stepped out of that airplane hangar, took a deep breath and said the air smells so clean, I call it freedom air, and we’ve just never forgotten it,” Kim said.
Although neither Kim nor Shannon will ever see their sons again, their legacies, along with those of countless others, can live on through us.
“Whenever you think of it or see a flag say the name of someone you know that lost their life,” Shannon said. “As long you say their name out loud, they’re never forgotten. So, to honor and respect and, like I said, keep saying the names.”
Gold Star families want everyone to take time to remember these sacrifices too. For them, it doesn’t matter how we honor the service men and women under the white tombs, only that we make space in our hearts to think of them.
“And recognize that it’s because of this loss of life our sons and other’s people sons and daughters have paid that we can rest in freedom at night,” Kim said.
Both hope it’s a moment of silence to reflect and respect.
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