They share a common bond of grief and loss.
When they’re together, they don’t have to explain themselves. Explain their feelings. It’s understood.
“They can cry the whole time and it’s OK,” said Charlie Corbin, who helps coordinate the annual Time of Remembrance, which is under way this weekend in the Tri-Cities. “There’s that comfort.”
Time of Remembrance honors fallen Northwest service members who’ve died since 9/11 and provides support to the parents, spouses, children and other loved ones they left behind.
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Shirley Schmunk, a Gold Star mother from the Tri-Cities, started the event in 2006.
Families began arriving for this year’s event on Friday. The event continued Saturday with social time and breakout sessions at the Pasco Red Lion, followed by a candlelight vigil at Columbia Park in Kennewick.
It concludes Sunday with a memorial service at Flat Top Park in West Richland. The service begins at 10:30 a.m.
U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, who spoke to the families on Saturday, said Time of Remembrance is an important event — one that’s special to him.
The first thing you notice when you step through the doors is that instead of shaking your hand in greeting, people will pull you in for a hug, he said.
“This is a place people come for comfort, to help each other through the experiences they all share. This is a place of healing,” Newhouse said.
Former Ambassador Ryan Crocker, a Spokane native who spent decades in the U.S. Foreign Service, including stints as U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, agreed.
It allows families to gain strength from one another, he said.
He’s found strength at Time of Remembrance, too.
In his line of work, he’s seen difficult things and lost colleagues, he said. For example, he recalled making late night phone calls to families of Foreign Service officers killed in the line of duty.
“It’s a very hard thing to (wake up) a woman who went to bed a wife and tell her she’s a widow,” Crocker said, tears coming to his eyes. “It’s hard.”
Relatives of about 50 fallen service members are taking part in Time of Remembrance.
Charlene Hawley of Long Beach, Wash., is among them.
Her son, Spc. Daniel Metze, served in the Army and Army National Guard. He died by suicide in 2011.
Metze deployed multiple times, including to Iraq, and he struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder upon his return, Hawley said.
Gathering with other families through Time of Remembrance is meaningful, she said. “It’s huge to be around people who know exactly what’s going on. We don’t try to fix each other,” she said.
It’s important to remember the sacrifices of men and women like her son, she said.
“There’s the old saying, ‘If we forget our fallen, then we forget ourselves.’ And that’s so true. That’s so true,” Hawley said. “The families need our support.”