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!

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