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A tribute to grieving mothers Monument honors those whose children died in combat "We have such a bond. We don't just sit around all day and cry." -- GOLD STAR MOTHER BETTY JACKOWIAK

It's not a club any member wishes to be eligible for.

After all, the primary requirement for inclusion into the Gold Star Mothers is having a son or daughter die while on active duty in the military.

But when they're together, the Gold Star Mothers take comfort in each other and in the knowledge that their sons and daughters won't be forgotten.

"We have such a bond. We don't just sit around all day and cry," said Betty Jackowiak, whose son, Henry, was killed in Vietnam in 1969. "When we see each other, it's like sisters getting together."

A dozen Gold Star Mothers from Western New York gathered Sunday with their families at the Pvt. Leonard Post Jr. VFW Post 6251 in Cheektowaga, for American Gold Star Mother's Day and the dedication of the area's first monument to local mothers who lost children in combat.

"He's being honored. I'm thankful for that," said Joann Carloni of Akron, whose son, James, was killed just three months into a tour in Vietnam in 1969, at age 19.

Carloni welcomed the monument and other efforts to explain what the group is, so that people "know what we represent -- our sons and daughters who were killed."

"Maybe," she said, "this will put it across to people."

Like Vietnam, Korea and World War II, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have created indescribable grief for many mothers across the United States who have lost children in battle.

The Gold Star Mothers, which nationally dates back to 1928, have been a quiet source of some comfort for those mothers.

Gold Star Mothers, for example, showed up at the 2006 wake and funeral for Pfc. Benjamin C. Schuster, a National Guard member from Grand Island who was killed while on deployment with a Marine unit in Ramadi, Iraq.

Schuster's stepmother, Frances Davis, appreciated the gesture so much that she decided to join the group. Davis has since gone to wakes and funerals of other deceased military in a simple show of support.

"It gave me a lot of comfort, when they came for us," she said.

Amy MacGregor-Morrisey, of North Evans, carried a framed portrait of her son, Army Cpl. Jacob Pfister, during Sunday's ceremony. Pfister would have celebrated his 32nd birthday on Saturday, had he not died in Baghdad in 2005 while absorbing the full impact of a suicide truck bomb blast. Pfister was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his actions.

Saturday also was the anniversary of the day Henry "Rick" Jackowiak was killed 42 years ago in Vietnam.

Neither MacGregor-Morrisey nor Betty Jackowiak will ever forget the moment military officials showed up at their homes to break the news.

"Two officers came to the door and I answered," said Jackowiak, who lives in Angola. "One of them said, 'There's no easy way to say this: Your son was killed yesterday.' "

More than a decade after her son was laid to rest, Jackowiak joined the Gold Star Mothers. She's been a member ever since. She encouraged MacGregor-Morrisey to join the group, which does volunteer work, usually around veteran's issues.

The monument on behalf of the Gold Star Mothers was organized as the Eagle Scout project of 14-year-old Jason D. Maybach of Bowmansville, in conjunction with VFW Post 6251.

During the dedication, the Lancaster High School freshman handed each Gold Star Mother a yellow rose and said he hoped that the monument would make more people in the community aware of the group.

"I just wanted to get them more known," Maybach said in an interview.

e-mail: jtokasz@buffnews.com

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