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


Acceptance Speech

As I stand here today, it is not for myself that I am here, but it is for my son, Josh, and for your sons and daughters, that we are here to represent and to keep their legacy alive. I want to thank my husband, Lloyd, and my sons, Milam and Jared and their families, for supporting me as I have been involved with American Gold Star Mothers these past few years. They have allowed me to deal with my grief through being active and helping other Gold Star families and veterans and their families.

Being a Gold Star Mother is not something that any of us wished or hoped for. Most of us had no idea what a Gold Star Mother or Gold Star Family Member was, until we became one.

Sometimes in the midst of our pain and difficulty there appears a Rainbow, a Promise, a Ray of Sunshine, to strengthen us and give us the courage to Keep Moving Forward.

That's what being a part of American Gold Star Mothers has been to me. As much as I wanted to lock myself in a room and never step out of it again, I couldn't. I knew that Josh would not want me to Quit. In life, he was always telling us to "Drive On" no matter what - As I searched for how I would keep going, I searched for someone - anyone - who I could talk to and who in some small way might understand even minutely what I was going through. One night during the wee hours of the morning as I lay awake, as on so many nights, even several years after my loss, I went downstairs and began to search on my computer for a link to someone/something that reaches out to families who have lost a son or daughter in service to our country. The website: popped up in front of me. I clicked on it and that has made the difference. We understand one another, we have camaraderie, a link, that binds us together even though no two lives or no two losses are the same, and there is that bond that we as Gold Star Mothers feel with one another. Some of my closest friends are now Gold Star Mothers. Without our common loss, we most probably would never have met one another. Through these past few years, we have cried, we have laughed and we have cried and laughed some more. We have set goals and reached them, we have set goals and surpassed them and most importantly in the process of all that we do we have brought a smile to the faces of many lonely and hurting veterans. We have gone beyond what on that night or day when we received the horrible and unthinkable news of our child's death, we would have never dreamed possible. As we have done that, we have become sisters, we have formed a camaraderie. For that, I AM SO GRATEFUL.

As we strive to give help and support to our veterans and to their families, let us never forget nor take our eyes off of the mission and purpose we are here to fulfill.

That mission is: Finding strength in the fellowship of other Gold Star Mothers who strive to keep the memory of our sons and daughters alive by working to help veterans, active duty military, their families and our communities. By aiding Wounded Warriors, Honoring the memory of the Fallen and teaching lessons of Patriotism and promoting service to our country we continue to fulfill this mission. Not only do we want to be here for Gold Star Mothers, we want to be able to help and reach out to every member of the Gold Star Family. The Dads and the siblings so often are forgotten and very alone in their pain. Let's strive to change that and to see that we keep our eyes on our purpose and not get sidetracked by the little things that threaten to distract us.

That mission and purpose that Grace Darling Seibold had when she and other WWI moms like her, waited for their sons to come home, but they never did, so instead of feeling sorry for themselves they began an organization whose heart is to be there for our veterans.

We face a world today that is full of uncertainty. We have thousands of our military troops returning with both visible and invisible wounds. This spills over into the families who are hurting and trying to cope with life as it is now and having to deal with secondary Post Traumatic Stress. On the cover of a USO magazine several months ago, I saw an illustration that caught my eye and it pictured so well what our returning troops are dealing with. It was a drawing of a military person made to look like a puzzle. Various pieces were missing and this so vividly showed me what hurt and pain and loss our returning troops and their families are dealing with. It is our mission to help them put the pieces of their lives back together. They will never be the same but they can learn to live full and meaningful lives by getting the help and support they so desperately need.

The numbers of those with Post Traumatic Stress, Traumatic Brain Injury, as well as Chronic Depression are staggering to hear. Suicides are rampant among our military and former military members. A recent study had alarming statistics saying that suicide is on the rise, averaging almost one every day. In the first 155 days of 2012 there were 154 suicides among active troops, that figure is around 50% more than the number killed in action in Afghanistan during that same period. This should not be the case. Suicides have increased this year by 18% and in the past the military shares that they have seen that as the fighting seems to go down and the troops are returning to garrison that they even show up more dramatically. We have to help get the news out to all of these hurting souls that there is help, that it will not hurt their career to seek help.

We have to be there, we have to champion their cause, both now and in the years to come. There is no magic formula and no one organization has the answer. But, by working together we can see positive results.

I hope you'll plan to join me next June as we have our national convention in Las Vegas, Nevada. As I began to choose a place to have next year's convention, it kept making more and more sense to go back to Nevada. That's where Josh spent all of his high school years and from there he received the appointment to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Let's Keep Moving Forward and then when our time is done, let's pass the torch on to future generations.

We can make a difference.

As we serve in our beloved organization, American Gold Star Mothers, Inc., let us work hand in hand, not always agreeing necessarily but disagreeing 'agreeably'.

Ask yourself as you seek what you must and should do: Would Josh (would my son or daughter) be proud of me?

That's what our measuring rod should be.

May God bless each of you and use you to help others. That in some strange way brings us comfort.

Let us make our pain a catalyst to help our warriors in pain. Through the pain we have experienced, let's use that courageous spirit we displayed since hearing the tragic news and reach out to help those who are hurting, lonely and afraid. Our children made one of the greatest contributions through their sacrifice than most Americans will ever imagine.

Let us team together with a determination to make an impact for our warriors as our children have.

Let them know: You Are Never Alone.

Closing Remarks by Mary Byers at the AGSM National Convention, June 2013

First of all, thank you for allowing me to serve as your National President for this past year. It has been an honor and I have tried to do my very best as I fulfilled my duties. I was never the "born leader", I was always that person in the background supporting the one or ones out front but life experiences change us.

My son, Josh, though, was a leader. He started organizing the kids in the nursery at an early age. I feel that God blessed me beyond measure by allowing me to be the mother of 3 wonderful sons who have all made me so proud. I've learned from each of them so much and I feel unworthy sometimes to be their mother, but God in His wisdom, gave me that awesome responsibility.

Thank you Josh for showing me what a true leader does and how to lead so that those whom you lead respect you and trust you; Thank you Milam for showing me that it's always good to ponder things and to think before I speak. It's amazing what a night of sleep can do to decisions you thought were in concrete the night before. You're always our calm one. Thank you Jared, for showing me that we must use those things that God has allowed us to experience in order to help others when they experience similar circumstances. Your tender heart has taught me much. Most of all, though, I must say thank you to my constant supporter and rock, my husband Lloyd. You see, I've watched him lead on the sidelines since I was 21 years old and became a pastor's wife. It is so different to walk in the shoes yourself as a leader than to be that constant support to the one out there leading. It strengthens that which we've all heard time and time again, "Don't judge anyone until you have walked in their shoes."

I thank my board this year who have worked so tirelessly to improve our beloved organization and for their words of encouragement many times when I was about to the end of my rope and you had no idea what I was dealing with. Josh told us after he had completed Plebe summer (beast barracks as they call it at West Point) about how he and his roommate said good night every single night during that time.

A constant thought that goes through one's mind when going through a tough and monumental time of testing and learning is, "I could always quit". So, they would talk about quitting as they were getting wound down for the night and then they would say to one another after lying down in their rack, "We'll quit tomorrow". That got them through. By knowing that tomorrow brings new opportunities, we are always able to see hope. Hope is what keeps us going. Let's all work together and keep moving forward so that we can leave a better path for those who follow us. Thank you and God bless each of you and most of all GOD BLESS AMERICA!

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