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Ruth Stonesifer's Remarks

May 12, Soldiers Grove, Harrisburg PA.

Governor Rendell and distinguished guests, it’s an honor to have you here with us today. But I would like to recognize some of our honored guests seated in the audience.

First, I would like to acknowledge our more veteran Gold Star Mothers in the audience. Please stand and remain standing when I call out the conflicts-- Molly Snyder our oldest PA mom from Korea, the mothers and families from Vietnam, Beirut, and the Gulf War, and peace time accidents. Now will the Gold Star Families from Afghanistan, Iraq and the War on Terror, please stand and join them to be recognized

Thank you for coming today to honor our fallen sons and daughters.

There are a lot of thank you’s to go around for an event this big; but there’s one in particular I would like to acknowledge, Gina Bucheli would you please stand. Gina is the graphic designer whose patience knows no bounds. Thank you for putting up with all the corrections and for making the tribute to our sons and daughters look so special. (Present Roses)

On 19 Oct 2001, when my son Kristofor was killed in action on a dusty airstrip in Pakistan, I did not even know what a gold star mother was. About six weeks after that horrible day, my oldest son Ric, who serves in the Army as a Chief Warrant Officer, told me he would fill out the paper work for this Dept of Defense lapel pin I wear today. Like most members of my generation, I knew nothing about the gold star families who have journeyed down this life altering path before me. Having grown up in a peaceful America, I was embarrassed by my ignorance about the significance of this little Gold Star.

When I took over as the Dept of PA President for the American Gold Star Mothers, I embarked on a three stage awareness program, kind of a mini 12 step-program to educated people just like me.

The first mission was to get a Gold Star Family license plate for our great state. Thank you, Governor Rendell for signing that into law last year. Many of us have that plate on our cars in Harrisburg today.

My second mission was the PA Hometown Heroes Banner campaign. Today we come to the opening of this tribute to our fallen loved ones and unite as Gold Star Families in our healing. I want to thank the Harrisburg Downtown Improvement District’s Board of Directors and staff for seeing the merit of my project and working so diligently on helping me to accomplish it.

I’ve been asked why do you do these projects. For one reason, pure guilt for not paying enough attention to the sacrifice our sons and daughters were making over the years to keep our country free.

But the main inspiration is my son Kris. He would not want me to sit home and suck my thumb the rest of my life. That is not how he lived his life.

One of my son’s ROTC buddies at the University of Montana described him as… “Kris was the kind of guy who could talk you into jumping off a steep cliff with him without a parachute just for the sheer joy of the learning experience.
There you’d be in free fall with him grinning ear to ear at you, and somehow you knew that just before hitting the ground; Kris would help you find the knowledge to walk away unharmed. Then as you exhale a sigh of relief, he’d say, ‘that was great, what shall we try next?’”

So, Governor Rendell, someday when you occupy that oval office in that big White House on Pennsylvania Ave a little further south of here, maybe you’ll be there to sign the third step of my awareness program, a Gold Star Family Commemorative Postage Stamp.

My son is the reason I get up in the morning and try on a new day. When I finally do catch up to him in that other dimension, I want him to be as proud of me as I am of him and I have a lot of catching up to do in that department.

My son’s legacy is very simple for me, if I live a life constantly worrying about my parachute, I will never truly soar with the eagles like he did.

Thanks Kris.