The sky shed tears Monday at the unveiling of the Tri-Cities' first Gold Star Mothers Memorial at City View Cemetery in Pasco.
The memorial, a project of American Legion Post 34, was revealed to the public for the first time as part of the Memorial Day ceremony.
Hundreds of Tri-Citians gathered near the cemetery's veterans memorial, where nearby gravestones honor those who served during World War II, Korea, Vietnam and other wars. Miniature American flags decorated each gravestone, flapping in the wind.
Shirley Schmunk of Richland explained how the blue star on the banner in her window became gold in 2004 when someone knocked on her door to tell her that her son, Spc. Jeremiah Schmunk, had died while serving in Iraq.
"I'll always remember the sacrifice that my child paid -- the ultimate price," she said.
Schmunk's son told her just before he graduated from high school that he planned to enter the military, she said. He talked about how proud he was to be an American, and how he wanted to fight for freedom.
Schmunk recalled how, during one phone call, he said, "Mom, do you realize I am part of history?"
Like other mothers whose children have died in U.S. service, Schmunk has volunteered to help veterans and their families.
Committee chairwoman Nancy McKee said it was apropos to reveal the memorial on Memorial Day. A total of $5,773 was raised, including a $2,500 grant from the Three Rivers Community Foundation. There also was about $1,000 worth of in-kind support donated.
McKee said she was especially grateful to the city of Pasco for allowing Post 34 to install a memorial on city property, and to city staff who helped with the memorial.
It's the first official Gold Star Mothers bronze plaque in Washington, McKee said. It's mounted on a three-tiered monument, surrounded by white rocks and baby yellow rose bushes, one of which was just beginning to bloom.
The engraved woman on the plaque will be the mother featured in a statue at the planned Gold Star Mothers Memorial in Washington, D.C., McKee said. The $700 spent on the bronze plaque will help build that memorial.
Rebecca Francik, Pasco's mayor pro tem and the mother of an Air Force captain who has twice been deployed to the Middle East, said she is proud and grateful for those who have served.
It's difficult to wait and wonder exactly how loved ones will return home, Francik said. She has struggled when people congratulate her for having a son who is serving in the military, when what she wants to scream is, "Don't you know we are at war?"
She recalled how Peter gave his possessions away to his brothers before being deployed, and granted his parents power of attorney, even though he kept saying not to worry, that he wasn't going to die.
"That is what I fear the most, for this beloved child who serves in war zones," she said.
Americans are still fighting today to preserve freedom, said Cmdr. Mike Jones of Post 34.
Jones asked that Tri-Citians remember the fallen, those who are missing in action and the families who have suffered a loss of a loved one.
Schmunk asked that people be compassionate with those who have served and their families.
Sgt. Ryan Homer, who serves at the Pasco armory and grew up in Burbank, said Americans need to prepare for the challenge of the next 10 years and continue to stand against terrorism and oppression.
w Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; firstname.lastname@example.org