Red, White, and Gold
The Gold Star Mothers of Mississippi
"I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom."
Abraham Lincoln in letter to a mother who
lost her sons in war, November 1864
One Saturday each month, a group of women gathers in Starkville. They come from every corner of Mississippi, each one of them dressed in all white. They meet at the Gulf States Manufacturers building just off Airport Road, a company that has graciously offered their board room as the gathering spot for this unique group of ladies.
Their club is an exclusive club and the dues are extremely high. It is a club that none of them would have chosen to be a part of but they were not given a choice. Fate decided for them. They are the Gold Star Mothers of Mississippi and each one of them is here not because of what they gain, but rather for what they have lost – a son in uniform.
They are a sorority birthed by adversity. They are a community bound by dignity. And even though there are some tears on their faces and a box of kleenex on the table, the most tangible emotion in the room is not sorrow. It is pride - pride for their sons, pride for their service and pride for their sacrifice. There is also a deep pride in their country and the cause their sons died fighting for.
At this particular meeting are eight women, all the way from Stonewall, MS north to Booneville, MS. Three of the eight are from Pontotoc. At the head of the table sits one of those Pontotoc mothers, Donna Bagwell, who serves as the group's president. Her son Lucas was killed in Iraq in 2005. Sitting just a few chairs to her right is Pat Mounce, also from Pontotoc, whose son Blake was killed just five weeks after Donna's son.
When Donna heard the news of Blake's death, she knew she wanted to be with Pat - not because she knew the person so well, but because she knew the pain she was experiencing. It was a moment where two mothers who hardly knew each other before their sons' deaths had an instant bond that no one else could understand.
That is the common cord that connects each of these women: they are in a group of people who understands. When they look across the table at the face of another mother who has been where they have been, it brings comfort and courage. Comfort for the pain that never goes away. Courage for the purpose of carrying on their sons' memories. What they share is hard to appreciate for anyone who hasn't walked in their shoes.
In the coming days, we will tell the stories of these ladies' sons. And while they only represent a small number of the 77 mothers in Mississippi who have lost sons in Iraq or Afghanistan, they will help us get a glimpse into what made their sons so special. Perhaps the single thing that brings the most pride to each of them is the fact that their sons died "at their post". Regardless of the cause of death, whether from a roadside bomb or from a Humvee that rolled over, their sons were doing what they were supposed to be doing - and they were doing what they loved. Serving their country.
The Gold Star Mothers of Mississippi meet each month at the Gulf States Manufacturers building in Starkville. Present at this month's meeting were (right to left) Donna Bagwell, Pam Presley Cousar, Jilll Self, Pat Mounce, Becky Lambert, Wilma Allen, Pat Freeman, and Sheila Dayton.
More photographs are listed below.
Click here to read more about the Gold Star Mothers at their website.
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