For Shirley Schmunk, being a Gold Star Mother is about more than her own grief since losing her son, Spc. Jeremiah Schmunk, in Iraq in 2004.
It's about reaching out to the other mothers, fathers, sisters or brothers who lost loved ones during wartime and helping them heal, even though they can never forget.
Her work in recent years has included creating the annual Time of Remembrance event in West Richland, a memorial ceremony honoring men and women who lost their lives serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, or after returning home.
She also has taken on the role of a support coordinator for the Army's Survivor Outreach Services program, traveling the country to help families cope with the loss of a soldier.
"What we do is go out and offer any services we can to the family to help them through their grief, through their journey," Schmunk said. "Each family is different. My goal is to help them so they're not lost in the paperwork."
This Memorial Day, Schmunk will take on yet another role as the guest speaker at an event dedicating a new Gold Star Mothers memorial in Pasco.
The memorial is a project of American Legion Post 34, whose members wanted to find ways to honor local veterans and their families.
"We fell in love with the idea of getting a Gold Star monument in the Tri-Cities," said Nancy McKee, chairwoman of the memorial committee.
The Gold Star Mothers memorial will be installed at City View Cemetery in Pasco. The centerpiece will be a bronze plaque honoring mothers of fallen troops. The plaque will be mounted on a three-tiered monument surrounded by white rocks, baby yellow roses and mounted flags.
The monument will be flanked by granite benches dedicated to the Gold Star Mothers and their families.
It was important to Schmunk that families be included.
"Everybody needs to be included," she said.
The American Legion Post is trying to raise about $2,000 to finish the memorial. Any money the post raises beyond the cost of the Pasco monument will go toward a planned national Gold Star Mothers monument in Washington, D.C.
Donations can be sent to American Legion Post 34, 1029 W. Sylvester St., Pasco WA 99301.