Marine families remember fallen soldiers
COLUMBIA – Shoppers at the Columbia Mall got to experience something a little different than normal on Sunday.
Local members of MarineParents.com put together a memorial in the mall to honor families of fallen U.S. military members. The families are called Gold Star Families.
This is part of the Luminary Initiative, which is an outreach program of the Marine Parents organization. On the last Sunday of September, participants will light luminaries in honor of the fallen.
“Since 2013, Marine Parents has hosted the Remembering our Fallen exhibit at the Columbia Mall during the week of Gold Star Family Day,” Holly Greenup, the Marketing and Project Manager of Marine Parents, said.
Dale Deraps was one of the Gold Star family members who stopped by the memorial. His son, Leon, was an engineer.
“He joined the Marine Corps the day he turned 18,” Deraps said. “He was probably 13 years old when they hit the World Trade Center and it affected him and many of us.”
Leon died while doing route clearance and was hit by a roadside bomb. Deraps said he wants the Marines’ lives to be remembered.
“It’s a big sacrifice,” Deraps said. “It’s important to us not to forget these guys.”
Sherry Wyatt was also in attendance at the memorial.
“[My son] always stood up for those that people would try to pick on,” Wyatt said. “He was a very honorable young man. I’m very proud of him.”
Wyatt said she was shocked that her son wanted to join the Marines because he had always been a peaceful person. However, she said he had a desire to do something bigger than himself.
“In communities large and small, organizations and individuals honor these families, from citywide events to a single luminary at the end of a driveway,” Greenup said. “Community service clubs, church groups, and military organizations all participate.”
Greenup said the exhibit Sunday featured 156 fallen from Missouri killed in the War on Terror.
“My heart goes out to all of the moms and dads, and brothers and sisters, and aunts and uncles that have traveled this road,” Wyatt said. “I know they call us gold stars, but sometimes it seems more like rust.”