TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — For Donna Brunelle, Memorial Day is about more than just parties at the beach and barbecues. Her son, Mark Nathaniel Brunelle was a pilot for the United States Marine Corps who lost his life serving his country.

“He was a F-35 pilot, so up in Heaven and flying around and watching over us all of the time,” said Brunelle.

On Monday, she sat with other Gold Star Families at a ceremony at MacDill Park in downtown Tampa.

“We watch out for each other. We do, we watch out for each other. At the funeral, I had Gold Stars there. Before I even really knew, they asked if they could attend. We check in on each other,” said Brunelle.

At the ceremony Lt. Gen. Gregory M. Guillot Deputy Commander, U.S. Central Command spoke about the sacrifice of the Gold Star families.

“This community really embraces it’s Gold Star families in a number of events throughout the year, today is just one of them and I always tell them that I recognize them, appreciate them and honor their sacrifice,” said General Guilott.

Also in attendance was State Senator Jay Collins, a combat wounded Green Beret who lost friends during his service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I am grateful, I am truly grateful that we do have that are willing to sacrifice all that they are and all that they could be for our nation, for each one of us,” said Collins.

As a combat veteran, Collins says his friends who gave their lives in service of their country would understand why people want to spend their Memorial Day with friends and family.

“Each of us fought for the little things. When I went to war, I believe in our country and our way of life and our freedoms, but I fought for my family, our way of life, our community, our home, each and every day and absolutely, they would want us to eat the barbecue, drink the drinks and partake in the fellowship, but we owe it to them to remember them,” said Collins.