CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sgt. Thomas Matthew Thomas was 29 when he died Nov. 17, 2005, the victim of a roadside bomb that went off while the U.S. Army Ranger was serving overseas.
"He was an only child," said his mother, Brenda Thomas, of Huntington.
Joseph Ashley, 24, was serving as a machinist's mate on the nuclear submarine USS San Francisco when the vessel slammed into an underwater mountain Jan. 8, 2005, about 400 miles southeast of Guam. Although dozens were hurt in the collision, "my son was the only casualty," said his mother, Vicki Ashley-Matics, of Spencer.
Emma Johnson, of Campbells Creek, still remembers June 18, 2005, the day her grandson, Marine Lance Cpl. Adam Johnson Crumpler was killed in Iraq. He was 19.
Kimberly Adams, of Milton, said her son, Cpl. William Bradley Fulks, died May 18, 2006, after an improvised explosive device blew up in Iraq. He was 23.
All four women, members of the support group Gold Star Mothers, were among the veterans and dignitaries taking part in Charleston's Veterans Day ceremony Monday.
Gold Star Mothers were founded shortly after World War I as a support group for women who had lost sons and daughters during the war.
During the conflict, it became customary for families with sons or daughters serving in the war to display a blue star at their homes. If their family member was killed, the blue star was replaced with gold. The tradition survives to this day.
Despite their sons giving their lives in the military, all four women said they were proud of their boys' service to their country. "We're proud of our military," said Ashley-Matics. "I think that every time I see them in uniform."
"I still have a son in the Army," she said. Despite losing Joseph, she said she is proud to have another son serving in Special Forces.
Ashley-Matics, Johnson, Adams and Thomas joined World War II veterans, several Rosie the Riveter wartime workers and other dignitaries at Haddad Riverfront Park on Monday as members of American Legion Post 20 honored American veterans at a special Veterans Day ceremony.
The women said they joined Gold Star Mothers to keep the memories of the fallen alive.
Veterans Day goes back to the end of World War I. Originally known as Armistice Day, the holiday was first celebrated to remember the armistice that ended World War I at 11 a.m. Nov. 11, 1918. After World War II, the holiday was renamed Veterans Day and expanded to remember veterans of all wars.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation establishing Veterans Day in 1954.Reach Rusty Marks at rustyma...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.