Veteran's mother shares stories of survival after tragedy BY SAM CARLSON

Photo courtesy of The Herald News.

Denise Williams poses with photo of her son, Pfc. Andrew Meari, who lost his life in Afghanistan.

Since 9/11, just under 7000 people have been killed in action nationwide, just under 300 of those people have been in Illinois alone.


In 1928, a group of mothers who lost a son or daughter in combat created a national organization called American Gold Star Mothers, which brought families together to continue the legacy of their children by assisting other veterans in various ways.


Being considered a Gold Star family is not an award, but an honorable title. Families who hold this title have been recognized for their loved one’s service and sacrifice. The AGSM is a very private and protective group, who view their Gold Stars as their uniform.


The organization acts as a nonprofit and nonpolitical organization that dedicates their time to lending helping hands to veterans and creating friendships with other mothers who have lost a child.


Lewis psychology student, Denise Williams, is the president of the Department of Illinois American Gold Star Mothers. Williams’ late son, Army Pfc. Andrew N. Meari, was killed in action in 2010 while in Afghanistan.


“One lesson I learned from support of Gold Star is that you choose, and I made the choice to be of service to carry on the legacy of my son,” said Williams. “In order to continue to do what I wanted to do, I needed to go back to school and get the letters to become a clinical psychologist.”


AGSM members volunteer for countless hours assisting and taking care of veterans that have been wounded or disabled while serving, done in memory of their children. They participate in many patriotic events and partner with other Veterans Service Organizations to continue to serve and give back to those who have served.


The Gold Star is on the service flag that is placed in the homes of the family whose loved ones were lost in war. The Gold Star covers the Blue Star, which represents those who are living that served.


Williams chose Lewis University due to its reputation of being a great school in support of military and veteran students.


“I have not had a class where there wasn’t at least two veterans or ROTC members,” said Williams. “I’ve had an incredibly positive and unqualified experience as an adult student.”


In honor of Pfc. Meari, a park in Plainfield, where he grew up and played as a child, was named after him as the “PFC Andrew Meari Memorial Park.”


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