Westchester County honored the families of military members who gave their lives in the service of their country at the County’s Annual Gold Star Mother and Families Memorial Tribute Ceremony on Friday, September 22 at the Kensico Dam in Valhalla.
The service included a special salute to each of the 17 service members from Westchester who died in service after September 11th and are remembered at the park’s Memorial Walkway.
Attendees heard from Gold Star Mother Hope Hollinsworth Coaxum of Yonkers, whose son, Army Staff Sergeant Courtney Hollinsworth, died in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2007, and whose sacrifice is commemorated on the Walkway.
County Executive George Latimer said: “There are pictures of those young men and women with their dress uniforms on that sit in the home of that mother, and as she ages she thinks about that lost child forever. What we can do as a society it to tell that mother, ‘We appreciate your sacrifice. We love you. And that there is something greater than we are, that will help us understand in due time that that person’s sacrifice is not lost in the cosmos; and for here, where we live on Earth, we won’t ever forget them.'”
Westchester Veterans Service Agency Director Ron Tocci said: “For every member who falls in the line of duty there are family members left behind and voids that can never be filled. Their loved ones’ sacrifice is just as painful as anything that you can imagine, and the pain of suffering and sacrifice doesn’t end until the end of their life.”
Hope Hollinsworth Coaxum said, “Gold Star Mother’s Day is not just the duty and the charge we were given to serve in. It is truly a position none of us wants to be in, but we must carry forward the work of those who gave their full measure of devotion, as we vow each and every day to keep their memories alive in any way possible. We have no other choice but to stand proud when asked about our soldier, our son or daughter. We have no other choice but to answer those painful questions, because for us it is imperative beyond all, that you remember that they proudly served, and we proudly served with them.”
The national remembrance of Gold Star Mother’s Day began in 1936 on the last Sunday in September. Since 2011, commemoration has been amended to be Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day.
Watch full ceremony HERE.