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Gold Star families acknowledge shared grief

May 25, 2015 

Steven Porter | Journal & Courier


Mary King came by herself to a Memorial Day ceremony at Columbian Park, but as soon as she arrived, she knew she wasn’t alone.


King, who drove from Fishers to honor the life and military service of her son, immediately spotted other parents there for the same reason.


She struck up a conversation and found new friends Robert and Mary Patterson of North Aurora, Illinois.


“There’s just a connection because it’s something no one else can understand,” she said, pausing on the park’s updated Memorial Island.


King and the Pattersons were drawn to Lafayette for the unveiling of a new Gold Star Families monument. It recognizes that the suffering inflicted by the death of American military service men and women is wide-reaching.


“I think a lot of times people forget that it’s more than just the mothers,” King said. “It’s a full family, and it’s not only the immediate family, the siblings. It’s an extended family. It’s the aunts, uncles, cousins. Everybody shares the grief.”


Her son, U.S. Army Capt. Nathan King, was killed during a training exercise in 2006 after serving two tours of duty in Iraq.


Mary Patterson said she appreciates how the new monument recognizes not only her own grief, but also that of her husband and son.


They all lost Army National Guard specialist Christopher Patterson in 2012, when he was killed by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan, she said.


Robert Patterson said Monday’s ceremony offered him a rare chance to let his guard down.


“There’s times as a father that you feel like you’ve got to hold things together,” he said. “Everybody else has their chance to break down.”


But dads have to keep their heads on straight to pull the family through hardship, he said, noting that he was able to set that duty aside, if only momentarily, to appreciate his own loss.


During the ceremony, Paul Cauley read the poem “Just A Common Soldier” by A. Lawrence Vaincourt. The text describes an aging veteran whose legacy fades from memory, while the public praises the less-deserving work of politicians.


A delayed plane kept World War II veteran Hershel “Woody” Williams from attending, so Cauley agreed — after the ceremony began — to take Williams’ place.

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