May 2018: Families of Fallen Carry On Tradition of Resilience on Memorial Day

May 2018: Families of Fallen Carry On Tradition of Resilience on Memorial Day

Each Memorial Day, Americans honor those whom we cannot personally thank: the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who sacrificed their lives for our freedom.

History suggests that Memorial Day had its beginnings in Mississippi, where women decorated the graves of Confederate and Union soldiers killed during the Civil War.

Ever since Memorial Day commemorations across the United States have honored men and women lost in battle — and those who are still missing — while wearing the uniforms of the United States military. While the deceased cannot hear our thanks, their living legacies are here among us to accept that gratitude, and it is appropriate that we honor them as well.

Imagine a Memorial Day ceremony at which many of these families sit in reflection. They are poignant connections to the pages of American history.

As you acknowledge them, take a close look at who they are and the stories they tell about becoming the families of America’s fallen heroes.

As touchstones to a war fought 100 years ago, a few surviving sons and daughters from World War I are still alive today.

It would be an honor to listen as one of these centenarian children says, “My dad was one of the 53,402 doughboys lost in WWI.”

Next to them may be the 70- and 80-year-old children and siblings of some of the 405,399 Americans lost in World War II. They still recall receiving a telegram that delivered the news of the deaths of their fathers and brothers on the sands of Iwo Jima, in the Battle of the Bulge, or on the shores of Normandy.

Intermingled in the crowd may be the elderly wives, children, and siblings of 36,000 American casualties from the Korean War. It may be called “The Forgotten War,” but these families always remember their loved ones.

Nearby are scores of mothers, fathers, wives, sons, and daughters, and brothers and sisters of the 58,318 Americans lost in the Vietnam War.

Grenada, Panama, the Marine barracks in Lebanon, and the 1991 Persian Gulf War left behind more surviving family members. Though the battles were brief, the families’ grief lasts forever.

The 21st century was just an infant when terror thrust America into more than 15 years of conflict. Since 9/11, the global war on terror has brought heartache to nearly 7,000 families. Their pain is still raw from devastating losses in Afghanistan, Iraq and other faraway places where evil lurks.

These surviving families mourn like the Gold Star families who carried the title before them, taking solace in a tradition of resilience — and shining a light on the needs of all of America’s surviving families.

Being a member of a surviving family is not a distinction anyone chooses. Joining the club requires the sacrifice of a precious life. We would all prefer never to have heard the 24 notes of “Taps” at a military funeral, never to have experienced the pain that is part of our lifetime membership.

But we all have.

On this Memorial Day, as Americans rise to their feet in honor of our fallen heroes, remember their families who have also sacrificed. For them, every day is Memorial Day as they remember their beloved heroes who fell for freedom.

— Tony Cordero is the founder of Sons and Daughters in Touch, which unites Gold Star children from the Vietnam War and serves as a bridge to older and younger generations of Gold Star families. His father, Air Force Maj. Bill Cordero, was lost in the Vietnam War. His mother is a Gold Star sister, having lost her brother in an Army Air Corps crash in World War II. His late stepfather was a Gold Star sibling who lost his older brother in New Guinea in the same war.

— Bonnie Carroll is a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, a military veteran, and the president and founder of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), which offers compassionate care to all those grieving the loss of a military loved one. She founded the organization after the death of her husband, Brig. Gen. Tom Carroll, in an Army C-12 plane crash in 1992.

— The opinions expressed in this op-ed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of If you would like to submit your own commentary, please send your article to for consideration.

— Source:

The Children of 9/11…from CBS News

The Children of 9/11…from CBS News

NEW YORK — While the rituals remain the same, how we keep 9/11 in our hearts and heads is still a work in progress — not just because of the loved ones lost that day, but because of the more than 3,000 children they left behind.

For years, the kids had their stories told for them. Now, they are telling their own.


Delaney Colaio


Delaney Colaio, who was 3 years old on 9/11, lost her dad and two uncles that day. A documentary she worked on called “We Go Higher” interviews 70 of the kids who lost parents.

“It’s a healing process for us and for other people to see that no matter what tragedy brings in your life that you can write your own story and you don’t have to let that event define you,” she said.

The story Jillian Suarez is writing is part tribute to her dad, NYPD officer Ramon Suarez. Jillian was just 9 when he was killed at ground zero helping people get to safety.


Jillian Suarez


“I missed father/daughter dances, I missed 16 years worth of Father’s Days. It is very hard,” she said.

Jillian is now 25 and soon to enter the Police Academy to follow in her father’s heroic footsteps.

“I want to be there if anybody needs me,” she said. “Just like he was. He never hesitated, and I would never hesitate to help anybody either.”

If how we remember is a process that never stops evolving, so, too, is how the children of 9/11 inspire.

An Open Letter to the Children Who Lost Parents on 9/11

An Open Letter to the Children Who Lost Parents on 9/11

On the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, Sons and Daughters In Touch looks back on its ‘Open Letter’ to the children who lost parents on that day. 

                                Based on the life experiences of Sons and Daughters In Touch                                  America’s Gold Star ‘sons and daughters’ from the Vietnam War. 

November 2001: An Open Letter to the Children who lost a parent in the Terrorist Attacks on America

In the aftermath of the attack on America, scores of relief agencies mobilized to aid the victims of this unspeakable act of war.

Among the most haunting questions was: “What will happen to the children who lost their parents in the attacks?” For the past 12 years, Sons and Daughters In Touch (SDIT) has been addressing that very question for the now-grown children of American servicemen lost during the Vietnam War.

The question then was, “What is it like to have lost your father in the Vietnam War?” And now, “What is it like to have lost your parent in the attack on America?” Unfortunately, the issue of “children victims” has been the focus of limited national research. Instead, much of what is known about the healing process for the children of Vietnam losses has come to light through the efforts of Sons & Daughters In Touch (SDIT). Formed in 1989 by some of these “children,” SDIT is a national support organization for more than 5,000 of the untold number of ‘sons and daughters’ left fatherless by the Vietnam War.

Together, we have peered into the past, shared our experiences, and established an ongoing legacy of learning, honor and remembrance. And in the midst of that has come hope and healing.

With a foundation based in the hard-earned life experiences of its members, SDIT offers the following insights which we hope can be a comfort and guide:

“A final good-bye…” Sadly, in those cases where your parents’ remains were not recovered, a lifelong sense of disbelief may exist.

Though it was impossible to achieve under these circumstances, the value of a tangible and visual “good-bye” cannot be underestimated. SDIT has learned from similar cases (primarily those in which a loved one was listed as Prisoner of War or Missing in Action and is still unaccounted for), that the reality of the loss will be tempered by the understandable question, “…are you sure?”

Without some form of closure, you may find yourself imagining that Mom or Dad might someday walk into the room, or be there to pick you up after school. That is normal and expected. Fortunately, time and reason are sound cures.

Over the years, you will come to accept the loss of your parents as a tragically-heroic badge of honor.

“Get over it” Don’t ever allow anyone to demand this of you. The process of grieving and healing is a unique and often lengthy process. The simple reality is that one never ‘gets over’ such a loss.

For a lifetime, this tragedy will be a seminal moment in your life. Every stage and milestone in life will now be different. As a teenager, an adult, a parent and a grandparent; at 30, 40, 50 and older ages, your life will be different than it would have been had you not experienced this loss. One never truly “gets over it”.

Let acceptance be your destination…and know that your arrival at this goal might take a long time.

“A time and place” As you come to accept your loss, it will be helpful to have a special time and place for remembering your parent. You may choose to do that alone, within your immediate family, with friends, or with the greater family of those who experienced a similar loss.

For many SDIT members, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial “Wall” in Washington, DC, became a place of solace and healing. For you, perhaps a national memorial that has yet to be established, or one in your community, will serve that purpose. You might also seek a day that permits public celebration of your parents’ life. For us, Father’s Day affords that opportunity (and these national tributes have served as the building blocks to help extend the healing to new sons and daughters).

Should you choose to wait until adulthood before reaching out to others who endured a similar experience, do not be afraid. Most members of SDIT were in their 20’s and 30’s before taking the same steps. Some of you will openly embrace this common bond and actively nurture it. Others will reject it. Know that participation and interaction is a choice, not an obligation. And that you may benefit from more or less interaction at different times in your life.

“The benchmark” Perhaps the most significant milestone for the members of SDIT was the time in life when they outlived their fathers. War’s cruelty dictated that some of our members outlived their fathers at 19 or 20. For others it was 25, 30 or 35, but it brought with it questions about how to live our lives without the benchmark that Dad represented.

This same milestone will exist for you. Reaching this milestone will signal a venture into uncharted waters filled with questions. “Is this the way adulthood really is?” “Can I ever accomplish as much as they did?” “How would mom or dad advise me in this challenging situation?” The answers to these questions can be found through discovering just who your mom or dad was.

Ask questions of family and friends, keep pictures and mementos, and attend your parents’ class reunions. The knowledge and understanding – and possibly friends – you’ll gain will help you to hear your parent’s voice and inherit their intuition.

Finally, while it’s impossible to document the myriad lessons we’ve learned here, we extend an offer to help however possible. As you organize, and as you heal, let us know how we can help. In the meantime, our hearts and prayers are with you.

In solidarity,


Sons and Daughters In Touch


[Sons and Daughters In Touch is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization committed to locating and uniting the Gold Star “sons and daughters” of American servicemen lost in the Vietnam War.]