DAYTON — For Gold Star family members, speaking their lost loved one’s name aloud is not just a simple gesture of remembrance, but also a way to honor their sacrifice and the legacy they left behind.
“(Fallen service members) die two deaths: one when they leave this earth and a second time when no one will say their name,” said Leslie Groves, who lost her son, Army Chief Warrant Officer James Groves III, in a helicopter crash during Operation Enduring Freedom in March of 2013.
As Gold Star family members, Leslie and her husband, Jim, know firsthand the importance of keeping a fallen service member’s memory alive. For the past six years, the couple has played an integral part in planning an annual Gold Star Families Memorial Service to honor the lives lost and comfort loved ones.
This year’s service was held Saturday at the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument at the United States Air Force Museum.
Keynote speaker Captain Steve Wyke, Special Forces Green Beret, joined the U.S. Army in 1961 at the age of 17.
“Today, we’re able to continue our forward momentum while remembering those so close to us, who gave all they had to give,” Wyke said. “Commanders on the fields of battle have had a mission and had to keep that forward momentum under any and all conditions, as well, while observing the seemingly never-ending sacrifices that duty required.”
Saturday’s ceremony included the laying of wreaths by Gold Star family members, as well as a “Last Roll Call,” during which names of fallen service members are read aloud, followed by the Firing of the Volleys and a performance of Taps.
Jim Groves, who himself served six years in the Army Reserves, said his son James joined the Army right after high school. James served as military intelligence before transitioning to air assault. James served two tours in Iraq and two in Afghanistan, ultimately experiencing 3,000 hours of combat and 4,000 hours of pilot instruction.
“He was in a place doing things that people were trying to kill him for, and doing impossible things in impossible situations,” Groves said, adding that his son had a strong will to help others and do what’s right.
Reminiscing on a candid conversation he once had with his son, Groves said he’d asked James why the Iraqi or Afghani citizens didn’t help the American forces fight for their freedoms. James then asked his father what he did the night before.
“I said, ‘Well, your mom and I went to dinner then went to visit friends,’” Groves recalled. “James said, ‘They can’t do that here, dad ... they need us.’ And I believe him.”
“I’m proud of him and his service,” Groves said. “I think he made a difference.”