Perpetuating the Noble Principles for which They Fought and Died
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American Gold Star Mothers, Inc

BARBARA BENARD: JUNE 2013

Acceptance Speech

First, I want to thank my husband and my family for understanding all the times I am away from home and the many hours I spend on the phone and the computer. They are extremely supportive and give me the freedom to come and go as often and as long as necessary to work toward achieving our goals.

Our time honored mission grew out of a simple desire to make sure our sons and daughters are never forgotten for the ultimate sacrifice they have made to protect our nation and to continue the task they started by championing our veterans. Today, I feel honored to stand for my son, Sgt 1st Class Brent Adams, as well your sons and daughters. I am humbled to follow in the footsteps of so many mothers who have made this journey and have mentored me along the way. I have formed many lasting friendships during my time as a Gold Star Mother and those bonds will never be broken. By the strength we draw from one another we continue the legacy of our sons and daughters, serve our veterans, and each other with open hearts and minds. What is a hero you ask? Well, according to the dictionary, it is a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities. It is not surprising then that this term applies to our children.

Our journey together has presented many opportunities to share with each other how we felt after experiencing that heart wrenching "Knock at the Door" and repeat the stories of our children's lives. I was lost, dazed, and confused after the death of my son Brent, as many of you have experienced also. I knew I needed to find a new path to survive, a new way to carry on for Brent and his fellow Brothers in Arms. Someone sent me information about Gold Star Mothers, so I filled out the application and sent in my membership dues. Not long after I received a welcome letter from Ruth Stonesifer, which by the way, I still have. She told me about a meeting coming up where they were preparing for a fundraiser for the Department of Pennsylvania, and asked if I would like to join them. Seeing these moms, especially the Vietnam moms and the positive energy they displayed gave me hope that I too could learn from their example and not wallow in my grief. This too motivated me to join the organization and make a difference by helping others. This is a journey I never wanted to take, and neither did you, but together we can inspire others by our courage, integrity, and drive to turn that negative experience in our lives into positive action for our veterans past, present, and future.

Now, more than ever, every branch of the service needs us to champion their cause. The numbers of our returning veterans after over 10 years of warfare with visible and invisible wounds due to multiple deployments is staggering. Years ago many of these men and women would not have survived their injuries, but due to life saving medical treatments on and off the battlefield they endure. They and their families are affected by the long wait for diagnosis and treatment and by the life altering changes their injuries have made. Too many of the returning veterans are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Traumatic Brain Injury, which leads to joblessness, homelessness, a high rate of suicide, and even imprisonment.

My son, Brent, was in the Army National Guard for almost 18 years. About half of our Armed Forces today are National Guard members. The citizen soldier has unique challenges. No sooner do they return from service, they must report to their civilian jobs and in some cases, not even the same position they held before their deployment. The government depends on our Guard and Reserves to fulfill the duties of today's all volunteer military. Some say they are our unsung heroes.

I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with 17 homeless veterans at Veterans Victory House in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Originally, our chapter wanted to take them out to dinner, but when they saw the price of the meals from local restaurants they told their case worker they didn't want us to spend our money feeding them at those prices, it was a waste of money. Instead, they wanted pizza and wings in their lounge area and to spend time with us. They even decorated a piano military style and added the names of our sons. This event was to pay homage to them for their service but instead they chose to honor us. This is the mind set of these proud men. One of the men was a former Navy Seal and now is without a home or employment. The youngest veteran is a young man 21 years old and his name is Frank. Frank is a former sniper with shrapnel embedded in his skull, some inoperable. Standing at parade rest he is constantly surveying his surroundings looking for any unforeseen danger. It is our mission to venture into our communities and spread the word on the life changing medical difficulties facing our military men and women and their families. The time is now to make sure we double our efforts to champion our veterans and their causes.

Together we serve to champion our veterans.

Barbara Benard


Remarks at Arlington National Cemetery Gold Star Mothers Sunday, Sept 29, 2013

Today is the 73rd Anniversary of Gold Star Mother's Sunday that is celebrated each year on these hallowed grounds near the Tomb of the Unknowns securely guarded by the sentinels 24 hours a day 365 days a year.

I stand before you today to represent all the mothers who have born the burden of losing our children while serving on active duty in the military, or as a result of their service. I learned what it means to be a Gold Star Mother on December 1, 2005 when my son SFC Brent Allen Adams was killed in Ramadi, Iraq by an armor piercing rocket propelled grenade that struck the 5 ton truck he was driving. About a week later at the funeral service I received my gold star pin.

We as Gold Star Mothers share a sorrowful bond as far back as the Revolutionary War through the loss of our sons and daughters in military service. We are resilient and proud of our children's service so we want to provide comfort and support to each other and rather than continue on a path of self contained grief we choose to serve in Veteran's hospitals, support our active duty service members, promote patriotism, and make it our mission to ensure the nation remembers that freedom is not free. We as members of Gold Star Families have paid a very high price.

Mary Roberts Rinehart, a popular mystery writer and playwright, who later became a Gold Star Mother, published a book in 1917 titled The Alter of Freedom. She stated in her book "Men fight wars, but it is the mothers of a nation who raise the Army. They are the silent patriots. Given her will, every mother in this great land would go to war, if by doing so she could keep her sons in safety. It is easier to go than to send a boy."

Our Vietnam moms have kept this organization viable even though they along with their children were never recognized or thanked for the sacrifices their sons and daughters made. I want to relate a story about a Vietnam mom named Mary Beach who lost her son Captain Sam F Beach USAF on January 17, 1968. Mary never received her Gold Star Pin. In the last year or so she kept telling her granddaughter she wanted her pin. Her granddaughter researched Gold Star Mothers and found our website on the internet and saw there was a chapter near where her grandmother lived so she contacted the Memphis TN chapter to find out how she could get her grandmother her Gold Star pin. Mary was approaching her 92nd birthday and she wanted that pin and she was adamant about it. Cindy Tatum the Memphis Chapter President made a few calls and was able to secure a Gold Star Pin. She surprised Mary on her birthday with the pin. When she put it on she was crying and kept reaching up to touch it and wanted to know if she was allowed to wear it every day. Cindy told her she could wear the pin whenever she wanted. The two mothers shared their stories about their sons. Mary's granddaughter Sue said that was the first time she had ever really heard her grandmother talk about her Uncle Sam. This Vietnam mother waited 45 years to get her Gold Star pin and is so proud she wears it every single day and even wears it to bed.

This is the very reason we celebrate Gold Star Mothers Sunday for mothers like Mary Beach and all of us who have lost our sons and daughters in the service of our country.

Barbara Benard

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