MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The last Sunday in September is dedicated to honoring families of soldiers lost in battle.
Gold Star Families Day started in 1936 as “Gold Star Mother’s Day.” It was a way to honor the mothers of soldiers that had died in combat. In 2011, President Barack Obama changed the day to “Gold Star Families Day” to include all members of a family that lost a loved one to war.
Shelby County and the City of Memphis made proclamations that Sept. 26 would be declared Gold Star Mothers and Families Day.
Gary Lowry is a Gold Star dad. He has a memorial for his son William Lowry in his AAA Office in Cordova. William died in 2018 from gallstones while serving in the Navy as a sonar technician. He joined the Navy when was 28 and scored a 98 in the entrance exam into the Navy. A perfect score is 99.
"If you see anyone with a Gold Star on them, they would appreciate it if you tell them 'I am sorry for your loss and thank you for your sacrifice'," Lowry said.
William died five years after joining the navy. He was ranked Petty Officer 1st class and he was stationed in Pearl Harbor. His death came just six weeks after the birth of his son. Gary said William and his wife had only been married for three years.
"I was there with him when he came into the world and I was there with him when he passed," Gary said.
The Liberty Park Gold Star Families Memorial Monument committee is working to educate the community about this day. The organization's spokesperson said there are at least 170 Gold Star families in Shelby County.
"The families are forgotten a little bit and they serve right along with them, with their kids, because for anyone who sends their loved one off to serve, they can hope one day they can come home waving the flag - and unfortunately some come home under the flag," he said.
The committee is working with the City of Memphis to build a monument in Liberty Park near the Liberty Bowl by the end of the next year. Currently, there are 87 monuments installed throughout all 50 states and 79 monuments in progress. The monuments are made possible through the Woody Williams Foundation.
"I am very, very proud of [William]. He made a difference," he said.
Next year, the county will celebrate this day with a ceremony or a candlelight vigil at Liberty Park. The committee is taking donations for the monument that is being built. Click here to learn how you can help.