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What Memorial Day Means To Gold Star Families - BY YFFR Military Advisor CMSgt John “JC” Chacon

Updated: May 28, 2021

A couple of years ago while stationed Holloman AFB, NM, I had the honor to

be the Memorial Day guest speaker in the small town of Tularosa, NM.

I'll share some thoughts from my speech. The first people I thought of to help me craft my speech were some Gold Star families that are friends of ours. I asked them what Memorial Day meant to them.

Here are their words:

Terry Burgess:

(I served with Terry's son, Bryan in 2010-2011. He was an Army Infantryman assigned to 2d Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, Task Force NO SLACK in the Kunar Province of Afghanistan. Bryan and 5 others HEROES were KIA during Operation Strong Eagle III on 29 March 2011.)

Terry told me,

"John, every day is Memorial Day for us. Let people know that Gold Star Families are all over, we are people at the supermarket, people at the mall, people you see every day. Thank you for this and honoring our son!"

Jackie Cunningham:

Jackie's son, SrA Jason Cunningham (Pararescueman), was KIA during Operation ANACONDA on 4 March 2002.

Jackie replied,

"Thank you John for Remembering Jason! He was proud to serve his country."

Monica Diaz:

Ms. Diaz's son, CPL Joe Heredia, USMC, died Nov. 20 at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, of wounds sustained Nov. 10 due to enemy action in Anbar province, Iraq.

She replied to me,

"Hola Sr. Chacon: So nice of you to think of me and my

familia. The loss of my son has been detrimental to me and my family. It has changed every aspect of our lives and for me many come with tears.

One of the things that I struggle with each year is the low attendance at the Memorial Day ceremony at the cemetery each year. Each year I attend with my family and listen to our guest speakers all while noticing everyone that is in attendance taking part in our yearly ceremony. Quietly I wonder if our society truly understands the true meaning of Memorial Day? Why is it that

it is so easily overlooked? Do they really care to know?

My Joe proudly served our country alongside his brothers/sisters - Marines. He truly believed in what our flag stands for and the depth of Freedom that it bestows on each and every individual. He wanted this for his family and his siblings.

I can remember this conversation so clearly as we both sat in our living room as he shared with me that he was deploying for the second time. My heart sank as I attentively listened to my son noticing features on his face and expressions he displayed while sharing selfless reasons why this

was important.

My Joe. My son.

Many times the military (and society) tend to focus only on the role each fallen hero had while in the military. But-behind each Soldier, Marine, Airman, (and so forth) is a family that is left with the pieces of a life that we no longer can hold.

My Joe's first life role was that of a son, then a grandson, then came being a brother. For 22 years I held his hand, walked alongside him, or sat side-by-side him, comforted him, and hugged him so tight that I could feel his heartbeat whispering in his ear "I love you Mijo".

Sharing with you one of those pieces: In my dining area I have a kitchen table that has 5 chairs. One chair for me and one for each of my kids. I know that deep down in my heart I will always have a vacant seat at my table. I sometimes sit at the table with the hope that one day I can share a meal with All of my kids just like I did when they were growing up. I know that one day God will reunite me with all my kids and I will be able to share a meal with them then.

Sr. Chacon-thank you for all you do. Hugs for everyone. Dios me los Bendiga."

Sra. Monica J. Diaz A Gold Star Mom

Memorial Day is more than just the start of Summer and BBQs.

This weekend, let us REMEMBER to Honor those that have paid the Ultimate Sacrifice for our FREEDOM! I'm sure most of us know someone that has been KIA or have a service member that we love that has passed on to Valhalla. You have all weekend to knock out 150 Memorial push-ups to honor these HEROES. Honor them and yell their name when you are done so they are NEVER FORGOTTEN!

Have a safe Memorial Day weekend!

Honored to serve with all of you!


Chief JC

Written by YFFR Military Advisor CMSgt John “JC” Chacon

CMSgt John “JC” Chacon believes in the vision and mission of Yoga For First Responders, as it helps modern day “Warriors” and “Guardians” get through the darkest of times. Chief Chacon has served in the military for 25+ years and has deployed all around the globe, including a combat deployment to Afghanistan in 2010-2011; that is when he lost comrades that were killed in action. In 2014/2015, he battled with depression because of trying to cope with survivor’s remorse, and ever since then he has lived by the motto, “There are wolves, there are sheep, I am the SHEEPDOG!" JC lives to confront the wolf and protect the flock. The wolf comes in many forms, such as the enemy; however, the wolf is also disguised through depression and anxiety. JC is honored to serve with other Sheepdogs that have the courage to share their skills in mindfulness techniques through Yoga skills and meditation.

CMSgt Chacon is currently the Operations Chief for the 18th Civil Engineer Squadron at Kadena Air Base; Okinawa, Japan. Chief Chacon holds a Master of Science Degree in Leadership from Grand Canyon University, a Bachelor of Science Degree in Workforce Education and Development from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, and 3 Associate in Applied Science Degrees from the Community College of the Air Force.

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