Mothers whose sons or daughters died while on active duty choose joy over grief in memorializing their children, Candy Martin, the Texas president for American Gold Star Mothers, said Sept. 30 on campus.
Martin, wearing all-white clothes, spoke as part of National Gold Star Mothers Day at Texas A&M University-San Antonio, presented by the Office of Military Affairs. American Gold Star Mothers Inc., a veterans service organization, was founded in 1928 with over 1,000 members today.
“We wear white, not to mourn the deaths of our children but to celebrate their lives, the innocence of their youth,” Martin told about 20 military parents, veterans and supporters in the Ceremony Room of Patriots’ Casa.
Martin, a U.S. Army veteran, retired as a chief warrant officer after 38 years of service. She became a Gold Star Mother when her son, U.S. Army 1st Lt. Thomas M. Martin, was killed in action in Iraq in October 2007.
Martin said meeting wounded soldiers at Audie L. Murphy Memorial Veterans’ Hospital inspires her to carry on the service her son could no longer provide.
“The smiles you get, helping someone have a better day,” she said. “It’s making a difference.”
Richard Delgado Jr., director of Military Affairs, said Martin’s son died protecting the freedom of Americans.
“Our freedom isn’t free,” Delgado said. “I know we say it’s free because it’s called freedom; however, there is a cost. She lost her son, and today is a way to pay tribute to him.”
As Martin spoke about the last day she saw her son and the last face-to-face conversation they had in the kitchen of their San Antonio home, she paused and took a deep breath. She expressed to her son that she worried about him going back and continuing his deployment in Iraq.
Thomas Martin told her, “Mom, it’s what we do,” referring to their family, his comrades and the community he had been raised in.
“He made a difference then, and he’s still making a difference today,” she said.
Martin said she is often reminded that her son lived for a purpose through her family, his friends and those who served with him.
Because of the way her son lived and died, she volunteers for military organizations such as the VA Hospital and the USO; she also serves as an Army Reserve ambassador.
In an interview after the event, Martin said that if her son could see her now, he would support her passion for service
“Tom would always say, ‘go for it Mom,’” she said.
Martin said she finds peace, is proud of her patriotism and will continue service for the country.
“It warms our hearts to know that we are with future leaders; it really warms our hearts to know we are serving those that are going to go out just like our own sons and daughters did and that’s really special,” said Martin.