MARIETTA, Ga. - A group of mothers whose children died in combat were honored during a Memorial Day ceremony at a suburban Atlanta veterans' cemetery.
The Monday afternoon ceremony at the Marietta National Cemetery was one of many events throughout Georgia honoring the sacrifices of military members and their families. The West Georgia chapter of American Gold Star Mothers Inc. was recognized at the ceremony, which included a keynote address by retired Maj. Gen. James Donald, a board member of the Georgia Department of Pardons and Paroles.
"We're put out there in front, but we're out there in front for our children," said Florence McSween, chapter president, who also leads the organization's Georgia department. She and other chapter members were presented with medallions, and some wore mementos of their children and held photos of them during the ceremony.
"It's not just a day to take a vacation or get the sales. It's a day to remember our children, and all of the people who are buried here and at so many other cemeteries," McSween said, her voice cracking with emotion. McSween's son, Navy Petty Officer 1st Class, Joseph Adam McSween, was 26 and the father of two young girls when he died in Kuwait while working as part of the explosive ordnance disposal unit, McSween said.
Aside from the chapter holding community service initiatives and supporting veterans, the group members also support each other.
"We all get together and hold each other up, I think we're pretty strong," said Judy Crabtree, whose 31-year-old son, Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Crabtree, was killed while serving in Iraq in 2007.
"You're in your worst days of your life and you just want to die. You want to be with them - forgetting about the other children you still have," Crabtree said, recalling what she felt when military officials told her that her son had been killed. "I used to feel like I couldn't go on without him, but now I feel like I go on because of him."
The ceremony's organizers said nearly 19,000 veterans are buried in the tree-lined, 23-acre cemetery about 20 miles northwest of downtown Atlanta. Thousands of volunteers spent Saturday placing miniature American flags in front of the mostly identical headstones, organizers said.