HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – It’s never easy for families who have lost a loved one while serving our country, but a new program for Western Massachusetts is helping mothers find peace.
“Kevin was in the service from the time he was 18 years old,” said Gwendolyn Dupont of Chicopee. She is proud of her son, Kevin, who died protecting our country in 2009. “A very loving man. Loved his family, his service,” she continued.
Only another mother who has lost a child this way can share in this unique pain.
“We really need to support each other,” said Paula Bouffard. She lost her son, Corporal Jeremy Bouffard, in a helicopter crash in Iraq in 2007. Since then, she’s felt alone in her grieving. That’s why she helped create the first ever Western Massachusetts Chapter of the American Gold Star Mothers.
The national not-for-profit veterans services organization was founded in 1928, but it wasn’t easy for mothers in Western Massachusetts to attend meetings in the Commonwealth.
“It was because the journey into Boston was too much,” explained Dolly Sullivan, the president of the Worcester Chapter of the American Gold Star Mothers. She noticed mothers from Western Massachusetts were coming to her meetings. She said it was even too much for her to drive to Boston.
On Saturday, Gold Star families and veterans opened the new chapter at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. At future meetings there, the mothers can share stories and help veterans. “When you do that, you help yourself. It feels good to give and it can be a way to helping to heal,” Bouffard said.
Gold Star Mothers’ mission is to keep the memory of fallen heroes alive and one way that’s being done is through Operation HomeTies. Artist Gina Johnson puts a face to the name of each military member from Massachusetts who has died serving our country.
“It’s a matter of we are home of the free because of a history of these brave people that step forward when we want to run,” said Johnson. This day, she presented her drawing of Corporal Bouffard to his mother, as she began this new chapter in healing.
Gold Star families were presented with a handmade stone with a gold star, as part of William Witkowski’s Hero Star Stone Program on Cape Cod. He creates stones to honor fallen soldiers.
It’s through these drawings, ceremonies and stories that families know their loved ones, and their sacrifices, will never be forgotten.
If you are a Gold Star Mother and would like to join the Western Massachusetts Chapter, you can find more information here.