By Samantha L. QuigleyAmerican Forces Press Service
HOLMDEL, N.J., July 10, 2006 – More than 40 American Gold Star Mothers and their guests from around the country came together here yesterday to honor the children they've lost in the country's conflicts.
The ceremony, held at the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans' Memorial here, included a roll call honoring servicemembers from World War I through the global war on terrorism. Mothers who lost children in Vietnam and the global war on terrorism, including operations in Afghanistan and Iraq , placed wreaths near the center of the memorial.
Feisal Amin al-Istrabadi, Iraq 's deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, served as keynote speaker and thanked the mothers for the sacrifices their sons and daughters have made for his country.
"We were a country without hope," Istrabadi said. "The intervention of the United States in my country has been a lifeline for us. It has restored hope for us that our future will be very different from our past."
Hearing laughter in Iraq's streets again and no longer feeling the need to cringe when admitting their heritage is part of what America's intervention has given back to his country, he said.
"These are not small things. These are things for which this country, and you as individuals and your children, have earned our tremendous gratitude," Istrabadi said. "Words of thanks truly seem to me to be insufficient to convey to you the thanks of a country, a grateful nation, which has lingered too long under tyranny."
Iraq's gratitude to the United States and the families who have sacrificed personally "will be eternal," he said.
While Istrabadi spoke directly to events in Iraq , his message resonated with all the Gold Star Mothers: Their children did not die in vain.
Among those inspired by his words was Renate DeAngelis, a New York Gold Star Mother delegate who lost her son, 22-year-old Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher W. DeAngelis, when the USS Stark was attacked on May 17, 1987. He was one of 37 killed when the Iraqis hit the guided-missile frigate with two missiles during the Iran-Iraq War.
"It was absolutely beautiful," DeAngelis said of yesterday's ceremony. "(It was) very moving."
DeAngelis, who has lived with her grief for more than 19 years, said older Gold Star Mothers help those with more recent losses deal with their grief. "With the younger mothers, it's too new," she said.
All participants in yesterday's ceremony got the opportunity to acknowledge a friend or family member who died while serving the nation.
The visit to the memorial began with a viewing of "Twilight's Last Gleaming," a short movie dedicated to Gold Star Mothers.
The group will conduct its annual business meeting today and tomorrow in Mount Laurel , N.J.