Moms of fallen servicemembers: ‘Every day is Memorial Day for us’

Posted at 7:20 PM, May 25, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-25 19:20:03-04

Norfolk, Va. -At the edge of the Atlantic, it's the unofficial start of summer. Surfers hit the waves. Tourists work on tans. Kids delight in a day off school.

And maybe you might catch yourself wishing someone a "Happy Memorial Day" as you go in search of sales on sedans or sofas. But to hundreds of families in Hampton Roads, this isn't so much a holiday but a day to reflect.

"You`ll never get over it. You can`t move on. You do deal with it differently as time goes on," says Maggie Sticklen whose son died in combat.

On Monday morning, Maggie Sticklen traveled to the Norfolk waterfront to honor her son, Joshua who died in a helicopter crash in Baghdad.

Darlene Kelly came to honor her son, 25-year-old Shawn Dunkin. He was killed in a helicopter crash also in Baghdad.

“Every day is Memorial Day for us,” says Kelly.

To many in Hampton Roads, a three-day weekend mixed with a stretch of perfect spring weather is a cause for celebration. Sun and surf; sales on sedans and sofas. Sticklen says that's not really what Memorial Day is about. But she understands.

“I would only ask that while they are out there doing that, that they stop and take one second to reflect why they`re able to do that,” says Sticklen.

Gold Star moms Maggie and Darlene came to honor their children, and others who made sacrifices before them. Norfolk today unveiled memorials to military men who earned the Medal of Honor. Monuments here, and in places like Fort Pierce, Florida, where the names of local Navy SEALs are etched in stone, all honor those who gave their lives in service to country.

These moms sometimes worry that the meaning of the day has been a bit lost. And they cringe just a little when someone wishes them a "Happy" Memorial Day.

So they ask -- no matter how you spend this day -- to take just a moment to remember those who left our shores to fight, and never make it back.

“My son would not want you to be sad. He would want you to be happy. He would want you to glorify in this day. But he would also want you to honor and remember and show respect,” says Sticklen.