A mother watched as her 2-year-old, blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy
stood in the middle of Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day
(May 30, 2016) ... hugging the gravestone of his father (Mark Jones
(U.S. Army) who had died five months prior.
hearts, the two journeyed from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, to meet
others who understood their loss.
May 30, 2016 - Two-year-old James Jones hugs the headstone of his
father, Mark Jones (U.S. Army) ... during a visit to Arlington National Cemetery, VA.
(Mark Jones died a few months earlier in December 2015.) James and his mother, Sarah Jones, participated in several events with the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors during the Memorial Day weekend. (Courtesy photo
by Sarah Jones)
The scene at the cemetery culminated a full weekend of events
dedicated to helping families honor the lives of their fallen
service members. Several days prior to the gravesite visit, the
families, all wearing buttons with a photo of their deceased loved
one, were greeted by the Defense Department's most senior leader at
Defense Secretary Ash Carter and his wife
Stephanie hosted more than 300 family members during family night in
the Pentagon as part of the Tragedy Assistance Program for
Survivors' Good Grief Camp on May 27, 2016.
The group of
mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, and children
each received a coin and personal welcome from Carter before they
lined up for a group photo in front of the vast building.
draw from you and your example, your strength, we draw remembrance,”
Carter told the crowd. “We will never forget this day. We certainly
won't forget why you are here. We think of you as forever a part of
Sarah Jones, the toddler's mother, was told by a
friend to come to the camp for support.
“So I decided to
jump in head-first and be around people who understand a little bit
more what we are going through,” Jones said. “So far it's been
overwhelming but even with that, it's been wonderful. I just know
wherever I turn, there's going to be somebody there.”
Each branch of the military participates in family night in the
Pentagon. With the Army's horses, the Navy's color guard, the Coast
Guard's mascot, the Air Force's paper airplanes, the Marine's
displays and much more, the evening's event offered a variety of
opportunities for survivors to connect and share their stories.
May 27, 2016 - Lt. Gen. William J. Bender, the Air Force's
information dominance chief and chief information officer, welcomes
survivors of fallen service members during a tour of the Pentagon in
Washington, D.C. Defense Secretary Ash Carter and his wife Stephanie
hosted more than 300 family members during family night in the
Pentagon. (U.S. Air Force photo by Andy Morataya)
Family members were able to don a Coast Guardsman's
rescue swimmer's gear and try on an Air Force pilot's flight
suit and helmet, most of it about 10 sizes too big for the
younger children. Participants were also able to go for a
spin in the gun turret of an Army Humvee.
an opportunity to thank the children and the loved ones of a
military member who passed and to spend time with them and
show them that the contribution they made is so important to
us,” said Maj. Gen. Martin Whelan, the Air Force's director
of future operations and deputy chief of staff for
Although a family's loss will be forever
felt, events such as these help them know that they are not
“It's important to always remember the
sacrifices these families have made,” said Lt. Gen. William
J. Bender, the Air Force's information dominance chief and
chief information officer.
With hearts lighter than
when they arrived, but tired from the evening's activities,
the mother and son left the Pentagon. Although their loss
would forever be felt, they gained friendships that will
last a lifetime.
By U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Hailey Haux
Air Force News Service
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