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

Candy Martin: June 2016

Acceptance Speech

"If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman." From the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Although her comment was directed to a British women's conference in 1965, I would like to believe she had women clear across the Atlantic Ocean in mind – American Gold Star Mothers! Although Maggie Thatcher was one tough cookie, I know she knew that behind every strong woman was a very capable and supportive man!

Thank you for your vote of confidence by electing me to lead our cherished organization as well as electing your 2016-2017 National Executive Board. Please be assured, each one of us have the best interest in our beloved organization at heart. You have heard each one of us answer affirmatively to the charge of our respective offices. It's not only going to be a busy year…it's going to be a grand year! On a personal note, I would like to thank Norma Luther and Emogene Cupp, for always believing in me, never giving up, and always encouraging me to stay the course. And, I would like to thank my husband, Ed. For without him, I would never have become a Mother to the four beautiful children we raised. Thank you for always keeping me grounded and being my best friend.

I never tire of telling the story of our Founder, Grace Darling Siebold. I am continually amazed as to how a woman nearly 100 years ago was so determined to find her Son that she turned her personal agenda into what became a cause. And what a great cause it has evolved into. For it was while working through her grief, she helped ease the pain of many servicemen. She truly was a selfless servant. She stayed strong…she went the distance. A very similar trait we find among our military today.

The beginning of 1973 brought the end of the draft, meaning most of our Sons and Daughters were volunteers. Prior to 197 many of those who wore the uniform were drafted. Although, they swore an allegiance to defend our country against all enemies foreign and domestic, I like to believe that each one of them – pre and post the draft became part of something bigger than themselves – a unit, a platoon, a crew, a squad, a brotherhood. Nonetheless, volunteering to support and defend this great country so that we truly are the land of the free because of the brave. Just as our Sons and Daughters – we are volunteers – each and every one of us. We don't have platoons or squads, but we do share a sisterhood. We share the common bond in that we find a way to continue our fallen sons' and daughters' service, through our own.

I remember so well the last conversation I had face-to- face with our Son, something I know I share with so many of you. Tom was home on his mid-tour leave and was preparing to go back to Iraq. It was the morning of April 17, 2007. Tom and I were enjoying small talk in the kitchen of our San Antonio home. I was telling him all the reasons why I hated for him to go back, that I knew he was experiencing things that no Mother ever wanted their child to go through. After a lot of back and forth banter, he left me with a comment that truly caught me off-guard. He said "Mom, it's what ….we….do." Those four little words, that allowed for very little dispute. How could I argue with that?

His last words continue to talk to me today. It's what we do! We volunteer! The more I thought about his comment; I believe he was talking about your Sons…your Daughters….his brothers in arms. While he didn't know it, I believe he was talking about the Sisterhood of Gold Star Mothers. I believe his comment made reference to all those Americans who answer the call to volunteer.

I feel lucky I was born into a family that believed in volunteering. One of my earliest childhood memories was tagging along with my Mother to our neighborhood elementary school once a week. She was the U.S. Savings Bonds Stamp lady, who sold ten cent and twenty-five cent stamps to the school children. I was three or four years old. The marketing slogans were great – "Save For Victory"…"America on Guard". It truly was a sense of patriotism, instilled in the eyes of a very little girl – a real appreciation of nationalism. And, it was the beginning of my life as a volunteer. So, I like to claim that I was preordained for service and destined for volunteering. Sir Winston Churchill once said, "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." I feel fortunate that my late Mother started my life motivations at a very early age. It is the result of Tom's death that the opportunities of service have continued to open up for me, because of how he lived…and died.

I have a favor to ask of each of you. A small favor and I know you can do it. Reach out! Please extend your hand of friendship to a fellow Gold Star Mother. We all know there are thousands of Gold Star Mothers, and I find it sad that not everyone feels the camaraderie we do with our membership in American Gold Star Mothers. Just think of the possibilities of outreach to our veterans and their families if we had more active members. I have established a Special Committee, called Star Search. The committee members are from all across the United States, non-members of the National Executive Board, and are charged with reaching out to all of our inactive AGSM members, in hopes of getting them involved with an active chapter. I have asked the committee chair to take a look at our Grace Darling Seibold Chapter, more commonly known as our members at large and get those members transferred back to a working and active chapter. The ideas of Grace Darling Seibold are alive and well with your National Executive Board and we need to get that same ideology out to our general membership. We need your help. Please let me know if you would like to become a member of our Star Search team. Star Search does not end with the committee members. It starts with each one of you!

In keeping with the beliefs of Grace Darling Seibold, have you found your niche in service? There are so many opportunities. Did you know we have nearly 2000 VA facilities throughout our country? That number includes VA hospitals, VA clinics, and VA regional offices – each of them with Veterans who may need nothing more than a kind face. Your smiles will reach far! In addition think of our secondary mission -- Americanism. I encourage you to team with one of our partners…Boy Scouts of America to plan a patriotic event with a local troop in your area, support Wreaths across America, an activity that honors our fallen, remembers our veterans, and teaches our children about Americanism not only during the holiday season, but every day throughout the year.

American Gold Star Mothers, Inc. led the charge of all Veterans Service Organizations. There is a reason the organization number 001 identifies us in the Veterans Administration system. Together, I am confident we can get that image back to the forefront of America. We are a proud profession of Mothers, who do not dwell on grief support, but support to veterans. It is through that veteran support that we find comfort. I believe we save each other side-by- side. It's a "sister thing".

In the past two years, you have seen a more transparent National Executive Board. Our financial posture is in the black and your volunteer board is working hard to make great strides to keep our 88-year old tradition of American Gold Star Mothers solvent. Keeping our transparency at the forefront, I am in the process of extending some of our Standing and Special Committee assignments to include members outside our National Executive Board. You will begin to see more input to your Board from members across the United States.

A few years ago, a young Soldier who served under my Son, once said to me, "You belong to the organization whose members are chosen by God." JP's comment reiterates the understanding that we didn't choose our path in life…it was a higher power. While on that path, know that you determine your personal victory. Find your way. Be strong. Know that every mile is worth your while. Go the distance! Just as Grace Darling Seibold realized that self-contained grief is self-destructive, let us do what she did – devote our time and efforts to serving our veterans and their families. Let us display Grace by finding something bigger than ourselves
And remember…
We Serve!

Farewell Remarks

Good afternoon,

What a beautiful installation ceremony. Congratulations to our 2017-2018 National Executive Board. I wish the best for all of you in the ensuing year.

Thank you, to all of you, for allowing me to serve…serve as the National President of a National Treasure – American Gold Star Mothers. When I joined this organization nearly ten years ago, I had no idea the impact my membership would have on me and the redefinition of my purpose in life.

I want to thank those who voted me in as the National 2nd Vice President 3 years ago, when we were at the Lancaster Pennsylvania convention in 2014. That was the event that put me in a position to serve not only that year as the National 2nd Vice President, but then to go on as the National 1st Vice President, and subsequently the National President. It's the way our voting system works.

I have learned a great deal about our organization, as well as the dealings with out partners at the National level. I would not trade any of that knowledge or relationships for anything. What a fabulous opportunity. Thank you!

I would like to thank my mentors, for if it were not for a few Gold Star Mother Sisters, I would not be standing here as your immediate Past National President. Norma Luther, you were the one to encourage me to run for the National Executive Board in the first place. I remember how patient you were when I continued asking you the difference between the banner guard and the flag guard. They're both flags! I felt your compassion about our organization and believed if I could become as passionate as you…then I would be OK. Emogene Cupp, who has attended 44 National Conventions but cannot be with us this year because of health reasons, was a big inspiration for me to stay the course…never give up, and never quit. Miss Emogene served for 25 years on our National Executive Board, understood difference of opinion, and understands a lot more than some of us young ones give her credit for!

When I think about this past year, I think about the accomplishments, and with this fabulous board, there were several achievements.

We extended our family. We formed formal partnerships with Wreaths Across America and Fisher House Foundation. We rekindled our relationship with Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and continued our strong connections with 50th Commemoration of the Vietnam War, VietNow, Vietnam Veterans of America, and Rolling Thunder. We share a mutual bond of service with so many Veterans Service Organizations and it is important to keep those relationships strong and at the forefront.

I smile with I think of the major milestones we met this year. The floors of our historic national headquarters were transformed into an aesthetic and safe home. Thank you to Past National President Cindy Kruger for directing memorial funds to our National Headquarters to renew and refurbish the floors throughout our beautiful home on LeRoy Place. While the memorials dedicated in the memory of your Bob were a great start, a big thank you goes to independent trucking companies of Truckload Carriers Association for rounding out the project and donating the necessary funds to complete Phase 2 of the floor restoration – which was 2nd and 3rd floors, as well as baseboard and trim paint throughout the house. Come visit sometime…the little piece of heaven on LeRoy Place has become quite a sight to see!

I am proud of the work this board has done this past year. We have maintained transparency, never faltering from the tough questions pertaining to finances and membership issues. It pleases me that we have supported the Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation in hopes that one day we will have a Global War on Terror Memorial in our Nation's Capital Region. I look forward to the hard work of this special organization and encourage our future National Executive Boards to stay in contact with the ideals and purpose. One day soon, I hope to see our Postmaster General unveil a new Gold Star Family Stamp…the time is now to recognize that there is an entire family behind each and every military loss. What a wonderful way to educate those who do not understand the term of Gold Star.

I have always said…board work is tough – particularly with an all-volunteer board at a national level. But, board work is necessary. The National Executive Board is your board. They merely manage what you elect them to do, and what our Constitution and Bylaws allow them to do. Ask questions. They're welcomed. Past National President Jennifer Jackman addressed transparency. It got started 3 years ago and it is still alive and working today. Do not let it die. Just as when you travel through public areas, when you see something…say something. The minutes from National Executive Board meetings are yours for the asking. While you are provided an abbreviated version in The Gold Star Mother, you are entitled to ask for a complete copy. Our National Treasurer is more than happy to "pull the detail" when it comes to reviewing our books. It's your money…the National Executive Board merely manages it. You have a right to know what is happening within your organization.

Continue reaching out to gold star mothers and work on building our membership database. I believe there is strength in numbers and I strongly believe that if we are not set for the next generation, who will be there to greet that next set of gold star sisters. Sadly, our country was founded on war…we are the land of the free… because of war. Since the beginning, our country has lost more than 1.4 million men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. Our membership criteria is fairly straightforward – mothers who have lost a son or daughter in active military service, or as a result of active military service…no matter the circumstances. Our constitution and bylaws have not changed much since we were formed in 1928. If we don't maintain our membership criterion, which is in line with our Department of Defense's definition of Gold Star, I fear we will loose creditability among our Veterans Service Organization brethren. Stay away from the subjective opinions. If you follow the Department of Defense guideline on the definition of gold star, you will not go wrong. It's sad when any mother looses a child…we all know the hurt. It is a pain that never goes away. But, it is hurtful to continue encouraging false hope to a mother of a veteran who died AFTER military service, a death, but NOT as a result of their active military service. Burying a child with full military honors is respectful and his or her honorable service will never be forgotten. But, burying a child who is a veteran does not necessarily mean that grieving mother is a gold star mother.

While we had a great year and accomplished so much this past year, regrettably, it was not without disappointment. My biggest disappointment was that the entire National Executive Board did not embrace the preservation and heritage of our beloved organization. When the Library of Congress accepts your historical artifacts, records, and documents – it's probably time to acknowledge their invitation and help preserve history. Our history. America's history. Storing of precious historical documents in cardboard boxes and file cabinets in a basement storeroom is an unacceptable way to honor the legacy of our 89-year old tradition we affectionately call American Gold Star Mothers. Our historical documents are subject to dampness, insect and rodent damage and humidity. A simple water leak could quickly destroy the only existing copies of these historical records. Since our organization was formed in 1928, the mothers of each conflict hoped that they might be the last to lose sons and daughters in war and that a time would come when the organization was no longer needed …because there were no more gold star mothers. But such a fact would not eliminate the need for the world to know that there was once such an organization and to understand how these women spoke for and represented their children who gave the last full measure of devotion to our nation. I look forward to the possibilities of our new National Executive Board and what they will accomplish with our heritage project.

Keep close our Oath of Obligation. Past National President Judith Young said it best during a Gold Star Mother's Day banquet…An American Gold Star Mother does not bring hurt to another American Gold Star Mother, nor permit a wrong to be done. It's pretty simple. As Mr. Peavy mentioned this morning…haven't we suffered enough? Be kind.

Congratulations to our newly installed National Executive Board prepared and ready to lead our beloved organization on to another great year. I look forward to the great things you will do.

Once again, thank you, to all of you, for supporting and encouraging me and most of all, thank you for helping to share my message of WE SERVE.

Candy Martin

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