Fallen Heroes Honored During Gold Star Memorial Service

United State Marine Corps Colonel Charles Watkins. Image by Justin Gould/WNYNewsNow. 05/25/19.

JAMESTOWN – The Blue Star Mothers of Western New York honored a number of fallen heroes during their annual Gold Star Memorial Service Saturday at Veterans Memorial Park.

A number of distinguished speakers described military service, including New York State Assemblyman Andy Goodell, who spoke of his daughter’s service in Mortuary Affairs.

“My daughter worked in Iraq in Mortuary Affairs. Part of their responsibility was to catalogue everything that was on our fallen soldiers,” said Goodell. “That included pictures, pictures of their high school buddies back home, or their boyfriend or girlfriend, or their car, (long pause) a sonogram (longer pause). There is no doubt that the experience had a profound and permanent effect on my daughter and on her parents. But, we were the lucky ones, because not only was I able to see a sonogram, I was able to see my next granddaughter.”

In addition to Goodell, Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello, Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi, Randall Holcomb on behalf of New York’s 57th Senate District, Katrina Fuller on behalf on Congressman Tom Reed and Blue Star Mother’s Lake Erie NY4 President Susan Rowley also spoke to the day; including keynote speaker United State Marine Corps Colonel Charles Watkins, who shared a real life story of sacrifice.

“I have lost military friends and colleagues in combat, in training, and on R&R,” Colonel Watkins said. “The singer death doesn’t discriminate, it hurts all the same. On July 10, 2017 a Marine Corps C-130 with the call sign Yanky 72 broke apart a 20,000 ft over a rural area in Mississippi. They were in transit from North Carolina to El Centro California on a training mission.”

“Sixteen servicemembers, 15 Marines and one Navy sailor, perished in that tragedy. That local community in Mississippi join together, graciously extended their hand, and offered aid and comfort It’s not only the families the Marines but also the Marines whose task it was to respectfully we cover the wreckage and the remains of those that passed away in that plane.”

“The community opened their homes, their businesses, their land to ensure that the recovery crews were provided for and had everything they needed in this very difficult time. Afterwards they bestowed a piece of land that would forever become a memorial to those that perished in that accident. Today you can visit that memorial in Leflore County Mississippi along Highway 82 just outside the Campus of Mississippi Valley State University. Additionally, a seven mile stretch of US Highway 82 is named for the victims of Yanky 72.”

“I tell this story to provide but one example of the many acts of a grateful nation to honor the fallen, this community would have done the same if it happened here. Nobody in that community ever met any of these service members when they lived; but yet they help to ensure that none of them would ever be forgotten,” said Colonel Watkins. “This past December, I was a member of a group of Marine officers who had the unenvious task of visiting these Gold Star Families; specifically our mission was to deliver the final investigation report to these Gold Star Families. The family I visited was that of Sergeant Owen Lennon a crew chief on the board that plane that day. Both his mom and his dad are immigrants from Ireland. Though this was not their birth country they lived as patriots and they raised a family of patriots.”

“They were so proud of their son, proud that Owen horrible served his country and their adopted country. This Gold Star Family upon my leaving presented me with Owens Memorial Card, I carry that card with me here today. I never met Owen; but I’ll never forget him.”

For the past six years the Blue Star Mothers have honored local men and women who have “who made the ultimate sacrifice” while severing our nation. You can watch the full service on our Facebook page.

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