MARY BYERS: JUNE 2012
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
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
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
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: GoldStarMoms.com 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
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
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
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!