Joyce Ward, left, gets a hug from her sister, Patricia Hicks, during a memorial ceremony. Ward's son, Staff Sgt. Christopher Ward, was killed in action in Afghanistan in April. / John Partipilo / The Tennessean
By Quint Qualls, The Tennessean
Joyce Ward said her son planned to continue in the military for the rest of his life, but he died April 6 after a car bomb struck his patrol in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Ward was 24 when he was killed while on his way to deliver donated textbooks to a school.
"My son is at peace, so I don't have to worry about him," Joyce Ward said. "My prayers are with the soldiers who are currently in action and their families. Knowing that he didn't die in vain, that he died doing what he loved, has helped me cope."
Gov. Bill Haslam presided over a solemn memorial ceremony Friday at War Memorial Plaza, honoring Tennessee's fallen soldiers and their families.
Many-Bears Grinder, commissioner of the Department of Veterans Affairs, presented the families of three fallen Tennessee soldiers with floral memorial arrangements.
In addition to Christopher Ward, the state memorialized Pfc. Glenn Schoenmann and Sgt. Jacob Schwallie. Schoenmann went missing in Korea in 1950. His remains were brought home Jan. 10, 2013. Schwallie was fatally injured May 7, 2012, in the Gazhi Province, Afghanistan.
"There's a whole lot of families that have lost a brother, a daughter, a son, a husband or a wife so we can have the things we have," Haslam said. "So that's why it's important to have the sort of event like we just did. Politicians can get up and talk in platitudes, but for a whole lot of families it's a real sacrifice."
For the first time in state history, Haslam declared May 24, 2013, as Gold Star Family Day to honor families who have suffered the loss of service members. The governor presented Brenda and Wayne Gearheart, whose son was killed in a training accident in 1997, with the first proclamation presentation on behalf of Gold Star families everywhere.
"To all of our grieving families, we'd like to say we're grateful for the chance to say we're sorry for your loss, we're proud of the service of your loved ones and we will never take that sacrifice for granted," Haslam said.