‘We only have the memories’: Gold Star families honor the fallen this Memorial Day

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CHICAGO — Memorial Day weekend began Saturday in Chicago with a wreath laying ceremony honoring fallen service members.

Tom Yarber said he was 9 years old when U.S. Marines knocked on his family’s door. His brother had been killed in Vietnam.

“He was killed in action on June 29, 1968, two months before he was supposed to come home,” Yarber said. “He gave up his life to save his buddy’s life. They were both shot at the same time, and the last three words he had were, ‘Help him first.’”

Yarber joined other Gold Star families at Daley Plaza on Saturday to lay wreaths to remember those lost.

“If you ever get a chance to meet a Gold Star family, ask about their loved ones because there are so many stories,” U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a combat veteran, said. “They’re as wide and varied as this country, and the uniting factor is that they fell for us, and we should honor them.”

“We love to hear their names,” Gold Star father James Frazier said. “We only have the memories. So, when you say their names, that’s you helping us keep that memory alive.”

Saturday’s ceremony was a reminder of why Memorial Day exists.

“It’s rough on a weekend like this,” Yarber said. “You hear, ‘Happy Memorial Day!’ It’s not a happy day. It wasn’t a happy day when Marines came to our house. It wasn’t happy yesterday as I laid the flags at his grave site. It’s a pretty rough weekend for Gold Stars.”

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot told families: “We will never forget — we will never forget — the sacrifice and service that they have devoted to making sure that we remain free.”

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