TAMPA, Fla. – Janice Chance calls events like these “A holy hug from Heaven.”
“To have people come out, and to honor and salute our loved ones means so much to me,” she said.
Tuesday morning, Chance stood alongside a dozen other Gold Star family members as “Flags of Honor Escorts” made a stop at Tampa’s Franklin Middle Magnet School, led, by Air Force Veteran David McElroy.
“Our mission is to have a ride that visits each of the Gold Star family memorial monuments that are installed by the Woody Williams Foundation,” said McElroy.
Nationwide, there are 91 of them – the tour of Florida’s monuments began in Pensacola on April 2. Along for the ride are full-sized American flags, that have made the stop at every monument along the way thus far – and read off names of the fallen.
“Those names, they all have families – they have brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers,” said McElroy. “Children, cousins, aunts, uncles.”
Chance, whose son Jesse Melton III died in Afghanistan in 2008, said, events like these prevent every Gold Star Family’s worst fear: Their loved one being forgotten.
“When you have men and women who come out, and say we’re going to remember, we’re going to say their names – because as long as you say their names, they’re still alive,” Chance said.
And their memory, she believes, will never die. After the event, Chance said the day her son died, he was filling in on another Marine’s shift that morning – that Marine two days later became a father to a baby girl back home.