BECKLEY, W.Va. — A group of West Virginia mothers gathered at the Beckley VA Medical Center to decorate a tree meant to honor the lives of those lost in service to the United States military.

The Gold Star Tree, decorated by the Gold Star Mothers

“To be able to place and decorate a Gold Star Tree, to honor our sons and daughters, is so special. The Beckley VA is a beautiful tree that helps Gold Star Families honor their children but also helps educate about Gold Star,” said Shirley White, President of the West Virginia Gold Star Mothers Association.

Only a small group got together on Saturday morning to ensure the safety of building occupants. The group included Mariah Kegley from Enterprise, which is a sponsor of the West Virginia Gold Star Mothers, two helpers from the 5K they sponsor, the Voluntary Service Office and Gold Star Mother Terry Cunningham.

“Being able to do this and display our children’s pictures on a decorative tree means is to honor them and their ultimate price paid. Hopefully, people will stop to admire the tree and then say the names. That is what makes us, the mothers, feel pride. By saying a name, our child is not forgotten,” White said.

A plaque commemorating the lives lost next to the Gold Star Tree

The tree stands in the Beckley VAMC Emergency Department waiting area. It was decorated with “Honor and Remember” flags and ornaments with each service member’s photograph, name, branch served, and rank. The full height of the tree was adorned with gold and red ribbons.

“The fellowship we experience also gives us a warm feeling. We understand each other and the fellowship becomes friendship. It’s always an emotional day, but we leave feeling that we have accomplished something for our children” White said.

West Virginia Gold Star Mothers also help Veterans throughout the year. This includes helping Veterans with monthly bill payments, collecting supplies for the homeless, supporting Project Healing Waters, supporting the Honor and Remember Flag Ceremony program, and helping with Wreaths Across America programs throughout the state.