Hampton Caughman and his wife Jane pose for a photo with 9th Air Force Commander, U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Lawrence Wells after receiving a plaque with the a Gold Star on it, which is for families that have lost loved ones during a deployment or in combat. Inviting them to a ceremony recognizing their fallen family members honored six Gold star families. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Cohen A. Young/Released)
Hampton Caughman and his wife Jane listen to a brief about the F-16 Fighting Falcon from Staff Sgt. Chris Ospina, an aircraft armament system technician assigned to 20th Maintanenance Operations Squadron, during a visit to the load barn here at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. on Sept. 25, 2012. Six Gold Star families were treated to lunch and honored with a presentation about their family members that were lost during a deployment or combat situation. They were the guests of 9th Air Force Commander, U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Lawrence Wells, who presented each family a plaque with the a Gold Star on it. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Cohen A. Young/Released)
by Master Sgt. Cohen A. Young
20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
10/2/2012 - SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- A gold star can represent many things; it may represent an award or crowning achievement for some; it may represent outstanding service or just simply a marker on a board game; but for military families, a gold star represents the ultimate sacrifice.
"When a service member is deployed or serving in combat, family members may display a blue star in the window, but if the service member is lost during that time, a gold star is sewn over the blue star to let people know of that family's loss," said 9th Air Force commander, Maj. Gen. Lawrence Wells.
"Many people are unaware of what the gold star is among military families or what it represents," stated Wells.
In 1936, there was a presidential decree that stated the last Sunday in September would be a time to honor Gold Star mothers and families according to Wells.
Recently, six families greeted and met with Wells here, so that they may together honor their sons that were lost in combat. Wells explained to them the importance of having them gathered together for this ceremony.
"We want to glorify what your children have done and remember their names," continued Wells. "We want to honor their service and that is why we are here today."
In addition to a tour, the families had the opportunity to meet other Gold Star families while they were treated to lunch and a slide presentation of their sons, which concluded with each family receiving a wooden plaque with a gold star in the middle.
The families were happy to visit Shaw and share their experiences with other families that had also had losses.
"It's very helpful for my wife and I to get with another group of people that have gone through the same thing we have," said Hampton Caughman, a native of Lexington, S.C. and a member of the Gold Star Organization since his son U.S. Army Spc. Thomas Caughman was killed in combat, June 2004. "A lot of times people don't know what to say, do or what we are feeling, but with these people we know exactly how we are feeling and what each is going through. It's helpful knowing that there are others and we aren't doing this alone."
After the ceremony, the families were afforded the opportunity of viewing an F-16 Fighting Falcon up-close as they toured the load barn.
"I really enjoyed my first visit to Shaw AFB and meeting Gen. Wells and his wife," added Caughman. "To be able to tour and see an F-16 up-close has been interesting."
The families were not the only people to benefit from the ceremony; Wells too was inspired by the day.
"We have some families that are still grieving, but are proud and aware of the sacrifices that their family members made.
"We've got a great military and we've got great Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines who are out there dedicated to their nation and if that means giving the full measure of their lives, then they do that unacknowledged, but always remembered," said Wells.
While it was an honor for Wells to host the special day, some of the family members were equally honored to be at the event.
"It's a great honor to be here with other family members that have gone through what we have gone through and it serves as a great support system," said Jane Caughman, mother of Spc. Caughman.
"I know there are a lot of Gold Star events, but these events are another way to say, 'thank you'," added Wells.