The First Memorial Day For New Gold Star Families

The First Memorial Day For New Gold Star Families

The First Memorial Day For New Gold Star Families

Every year, most of the American public blows right by the meaning of Memorial Day.

This day is not about backyard barbecues or fantastic sales on clothes or furniture. And it’s not about veterans or those currently serving. Memorial Day is to honor those who died in combat, or who died in service to their country.

This year, we sadly have new Gold Star families for whom the meaning of Memorial Day is now intensely personal, after the August 26, 2021 bombing at Abbey Gate at Kabul airport during the withdrawl from Afghanistan. Thirteen of our servicemembers – eleven Marines, one soldier, and one sailor – were killed in the attack by a single suicide bomber as they went about their duties there at the airport.

The mother of one of those Marines, Cheryl Rex, who buried her son Lance Corporal Dylan Merola, is now living through her first Memorial Day as a Gold Star Mother.

“I’ll change the flowers out to red, white, and blue,” Rex said as she stood near the grave of her son, Marine Lance Corporal Dylan Merola. He was buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Orange County, California in September.”

It’s a world away from where she was last Memorial Day.”

“Memorial Day is usually my birthday weekend,” Rex said. “So it’s going to be even harder every year. Not only for what we represent for Memorial Day, but you can’t really celebrate after something like this.”

She comes to the cemetery five to six times a week. She decorates her son’s grave to fit various occasions. For Memorial Day, his marker is covered with angels, Marine Flags and red, white, and blue streamers.”

“Sometimes I can sit here for six hours, eight hours, it just depends,” she said. “It’s all I have left. I sit with him and talk with him.”

Rex recounted that her son always wanted to be a Marine, and he enlisted right out of high school. Lance Corporal Dylan Merola was 20 years old when he was killed in Kabul. He had kept in contact with his mother via text during his deployment in Afghanistan, and had been in the country for less than two weeks when the suicide bomber attacked. When his remains arrived in California last September, thousands lined the streets to pay their respects.

According to local media reports, hundreds attended Dylan Merola’s public funeral service. But eventually everyone else moves on. Cheryl Rex cannot, especially on this Memorial Day.

“My whole life is completely different. I know I’ll never be the same person I was,” Rex said. “The pain itself is something that I can’t even explain.”

Clarinda Montsuoka – Cheryl’s mother and Dylan’s grandmother – said her daughter has changed since August.”

“She cries a lot more. It’s hard to say because she’s always been a very strong mom. Our whole family is pretty strong,” Montsuoka said. “You never think you’re going to bury a child or a grandchild. He died doing what he loved.”

According to the article, Dylan Merola’s older brother joined the Marines in January of this year. This family is continuing to give to this country, despite their own heavy burdens of grief.

There are twelve other families that are living through their first Memorial Day after the Kabul suicide bombing attack that killed their loved ones. Today is the day to honor the sacrifices that they made. Thousands stopped to pay tribute to the service and sacrifice of Lance Corporal Dylan Merola when he came home to be buried. What would this nation be like if we took this day to stop in the same way to pay tribute to all those who gave their “last full measure of devotion” to their country?

I encourage everyone, in their own way, to stop and pay tribute to those who gave us their all, so that we might be free.

Featured image via Pixabay, cropped, Pixabay license

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  • Deborah B. says:

    Thank you as always. I can count on the Victory Girls to remember our fallen in a thoughtful way. My brother and I hang the very large flag from my father’s casket (he served in WW2) from our upper deck in honor of those who gave their all. Hopefully anyone who sees it will send up a prayer of thankful remembrance.

  • Old NFO says:

    May they rest in peace. Hand Salute. Ready, Two!

  • […] as we honor, remember, and grieve with Gold Star families, Joe Biden decides to tell the world that all we fight for should be wiped away in the […]

  • Scott says:

    All the lives lost are a terrible price to pay, but those thirteen need not have been lost, which makes it all the more tragic.

    RIP to all the fallen, and may their families one day find peace.

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