GROTON, Conn. – Naval Submarine Base (SUBASE) New London honored service members who gave their lives and the grieving families they left behind, through a special ceremony held at the Historic Ship Nautilus (SSN 571) and Submarine Force Museum, Sept. 25, 2020.

Closed to all but the participants due the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the fifth annual “Bells across America for Fallen Service Members” remembrance event was streamed live on social media.

“While we may be physically-distant, our care, concern, and sense of family is ever present,” said April Tischler, the Navy Gold Star Program Coordinator serving families of the fallen in New England and New York. “The true hope of this event is to demonstrate our overwhelming pride, deepest continued condolences, and steadfast compassion for those Mothers and Families we honor.”

The Gold Star tradition is one that dates back to World War I when families would hang white flags with blue stars in the window; one star for every family member serving, a gold star if they were deceased. In June 1936, Congress designated the last Sunday in September as "Gold Star Mother's Day," and today, Gold Star Mother’s Day has expanded to encompass “Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day” and “Gold Star Remembrance Week.” Moreover, gold stars honor any loved one who has died while on active duty service – not only those lost in combat, but any manner of death.

Gold Star Mothers and Families submitted names of their lost loved ones to Tischler prior to the ceremony.

At the event, SUBASE New London Commanding Officer Capt. Todd Moore solemnly read the list, as Torpedoman's Mate 2nd Class Ian Stoll somberlyrang a bell after each name read.

“From the American Revolution to today’s war on terrorism across the globe, our men and women in uniform have put themselves in harm's way,” said Moore following the bell’s final toll. “Many have made the ultimate sacrifice. Their actions attest not only to the depth of their devotion, but also to a belief in their country so profound that they were willing to give their very lives for it. Today, we pay solemn tribute to those who made that sacrifice.”

SUBASE New London Command Master Chief Raj Sodhi highlighted why Gold Star Families Day deserves recognition.

“Veterans Day and Memorial Day allow us to honor our men and women in uniform who have put themselves in harm's way to defend the people they love and the land they cherish,” said Sodhi. “On those days, we pay solemn tribute to all, who in service to their Nation, gave of themselves until they had nothing more to give. Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day, and events like this afternoon’s, allow us as a grateful Nation to come together in another way. It is a time to honor the families who keep the memory of our fallen service members, their loved ones, burning bright.”

More than 70 people joined the ceremony’s live stream ceremony on social media.

“It’s a ceremony that clearly reminds us all that freedom isn’t free,” concluded Moore. “It is paid for by the men and women who stand up willingly to serve and sacrifice in our Armed Forces and by those who love them.”

The Navy Gold Star Program is the Navy’s official program for providing long-term support to surviving families of Sailors who pass away while on active duty. For more information about the program visit www.navygoldstar.com.

Connecticut Media Group