Americans across the nation celebrated Gold Star Family’s Day on Sept. 30.
And this year was the first time Carroll County residents participated in the event, which is designed to honor the families of those who have died in the military. They gathered outside the Dove House at Carroll Hospice on Sunday evening in the wake of a burning pink and orange sunset.
“This is just the first year,” said Carroll Hospice Executive Director Regina Bodnar. “Next year is going to be bigger and better.
“We are following the national program,” she said. “I’m just excited to personalize this for Carroll.”
About 30 people showed up to light some 250 luminaries and line them up along the sidewalk on Stoner Avenue and the perimeter of the hospice building. Some of the luminaries, in paper bags with gold stars on them, had the names of soldiers lost.
“We’ve had [former Carroll residents] reach out from California,” said Bodnar, “and so we started personalizing the bags.”
Dorothea James, a hospice employee and lead chaplain, led the memorial once all the luminaries were set up and families had gathered around her.
“Every time we feel the wind blow, we want to remember,” she said. “We know this is a national thing — we want to see lights everywhere for everyone who sacrificed their lives.”
One of the volunteers at the memorial Sunday evening was a Westminster mother who lost her son, a U.S. Marine, in Afghanistan in March 2011.
Jimmy Malachowski died along with 10 other men that day.
Alison Malachowski is a Marine veteran herself, and volunteers with the hospice’s We Honor Veterans program to do presentations honoring veterans who are dying.
About 25 percent of people in hospice are veterans, and that rings true for Carroll Hospice as well, according to its director.
Malachowski stood in front of a luminary display she set up with her son’s name and those of his fellow soldiers from the 2nd Battallion, 8th Marines.
“My son told me he was going to die, that he wasn’t coming back,” Malachowski said, remembering a time he took her aside before his fourth deployment.
He took her aside, Marine to Marine, she said.
“He said, ‘I just don’t want anyone to forget I ever lived,’ ” she recalled. “They’re never forgotten as long as we say their name. Don’t be afraid to say their names. That’s why everyone gets their name on a bag.”
Before leading the group in a closing prayer, James also said not only is it important to remember those who died in service, but those who came back and might have had their services forgotten as well.
“Some of the things they had to endure, we don’t know all the stuff they brought back,” James said. “We need to remember them.”
Mary Jane Wickline, president of the Auxiliary at the American Legion Hampstead American Legion Post 200, had two bags set up outside the Dove House — one with her husband’s name, Tom Wickline, the other with that of his brother Ed.
The two men didn’t die in service, but they were veterans. And Wickline’s husband, who served in Korea, was the post commander at the Hampstead American Legion for two years in the early 1990s.
“My husband passed away here in the Dove House in 2016,” said Wickline.
After the service, Del. Susan Krebs, R-District 5, a member of the Carroll Hospice Board, wiped tears from her eyes.
“We’re here to remember these gentlemen,” she said, “and the ones there now. We have to remember they are all there voluntarily now.”
Bodnar said this is the first year Carroll Hospice is celebrating Gold Star Family’s Day, and that she hopes it will grow throughout the years.
Its next event through its We Honor Veterans program will be its Veterans Breakfast from 9 to 11 a.m. on Nov. 8 at the Carroll Hospital’s Shauck Auditorium.
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Registration is required, and can be done by phone: 410-871-7205. More information can be found on the Carroll Hospice website, www.carrollhospice.org/home.