CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) – Three days during the year are dedicated to honoring America’s soldiers.
“Armed Forces Day, they are still wearing their uniforms, Memorial Day is they never got to take their uniform off and Veterans Day, they got to hang their uniform up,” Holly Ross explained.
For Ross and KD Wagner, every day is Memorial Day because they are both Gold Star mothers.
“My son (H.F. “Bud” Bolte IV) was killed during operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 and Holly’s daugther was killed in 2020,” said Wagner, the president of the Gulf Coast Chapter American Gold Star Mothers.
U.S. Navy Lt. Rhiannon Ross, who was a pilot, died in a training flight crash in Alabama.
Both Ross and Wagner took time to read the names of fallen soldiers at the Florida Veterans Memorial Plaza at Crest Lake Park before attending the annual Memorial Day ceremony hosted by the Tampa Bay Veterans Alliance.
“I will never let anybody forget the sacrifice that he made so that we can still have our freedoms,” speaker Craig Gross said during the ceremony.
The Gold Star father recalled the day in July 2011 when he learned his son, Army Cpl. Frank Gross, was killed in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
“My wife and I got that knock on the door,” Gross said, “When I saw the two soldiers walking toward my front door I knew immediately what they were there for. They were there to tell me my son had perished.”
The mission of Gold Star parents is to make sure the sacrifice of soldiers who don’t get to hang up their uniforms is never forgotten.
“Because they served and died to protect all of us,” Ross said.
Forever proud of their children’s service to the country, Gold Star parents can lean on each other while trying to cope with the enduring grief.
“We often say we’re thankful for the Gold Star family,” Gross said, “But we don’t want any more members and we didn’t ask to belong.”