At the Houston National Cemetery on Sunday, some will come to remember the children they lost to war. Some will come to honor the children still in battle. And some will come to visit the final resting place of a parent.
In short, a typical Mother’s Day, with all the emotion, pride and longing that entails, plus a profusion of flags, patriotism and gold stars.
“On Sunday, the cemetery will be a very busy place for visitation,” said Linda Barry, office supervisor for the Houston National Cemetery. “It will be somber. We will be crowded on Sunday as people come to pay their respects.”
The Disabled American Veterans-San Jacinto Chapter 1 will sponsor a ceremony to honor Gold Star Mothers, a national organization for mothers who have lost a son or daughter to combat. The outdoor ceremony will include a release of white doves by local Gold Star Mothers, a rifle salute and the playing of taps.
“It’s important for us to remember, just like we would remember a brother,” chapter commander Margarito Vasquez said. “The program is to let them know that we haven’t forgotten the price their sons and daughters paid to maintain our freedom. We want to let them know that the veterans know what they’ve been through.”
Susie Miller, of Pearland, has been to several memorial services since her son, Marine Lance Cpl. William Lewis Miller, was killed in Fallujah, Iraq, on Nov. 15, 2004. But Sunday’s service to honor Gold Star Mothers will be her first.
The last time she saw her “Billy” was Mother’s Day weekend in 2004, during a trip to Camp Lejeune, N.C. Her son bought her a pin that reads, “My son is a Marine.”
He was deployed to Iraq the next month.
The memory brings her to tears. “Sometimes I can talk about it and I’m just fine,” she said, offering an apology. “We got to spend four days with him. I still wear it (the pin) because he’s still a Marine. He’s always with me.”
Miller spent the first Mother’s Day after his death visiting his grave site at the family cemetery in Arkansas.
This year, she will stay in town and attend the ceremony at the Houston National Cemetery.
The mother, who maintains a “Billy Wall,” a collection of mementos including Marine and high school pictures, expects the ceremony to be bittersweet: “The love and support is so wonderful. It is a two-edged sword. It’s wonderful and it’s very sad at the same time.”
Blue Star Mother Carmen Griego will also be there.
Her son Raymond, an Army National Guardsmen, served in the war in Iraq. Another son, Michael, still is in the Air Force, stationed in Germany.
Griego, who has attended about 15 funerals for area soldiers she never knew, said she will attend Sunday’s ceremony.
“It’s very important for me as a mother to be there,” Griego said. “I am very grateful to God that my son came home safe. If it would have happened to me I would want someone to be there for me.”