REMEMBER THE CHILDREN OF THOSE WHO GAVE ALL
Children get medals of remembrance
Award helps to ease loss of a parent to combat
Alexus Peña has leaned on family and friends to ease the pain of losing of her father, who died in July 2005 from an improvised explosive device while on patrol in Baghdad.But there are still days like Sunday, when she simply wanted the easygoing chuckle of Staff Sgt. Jorge Peña-Romero to ring once more.”It took a long time to get ready,” Alexus, 13, said during a ceremony at Fort Bliss that recognized three fallen Army soldiers and their children. “I was anxious and kind of overwhelmed, but it makes me feel good that they would do something nice for my dad.”
Alexus and seven others received the Gold Medal of Remembrance, which honors children who have lost a parent in service to the United States, from U.S. Sen. John Cornyn,
Alexus Peña, 13, looked at a photo of her father, the late Staff Sgt. Jorge L. Peña-Romero on Sunday as she wore a Gold Medal of Remembrance presented to her by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, at Fort Bliss. (Adriane Jaeckle / El Paso Times)
R-Texas.”I think it’s important to let them know that their father, in this case, is a hero to us, and that their sacrifice is an example to those of us left behind,” Cornyn said. “My hope is that these children, as they grow older, will remember their medal and certificate and this occasion and this will be a source of pride for them and help them with some of their loss.”
The medal, which is awarded by the White House Commission on Remembrance, is the first of its kind to honor children. Over the past two years, 200 such medals have been given to the children of military service members who have died fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Cornyn has set out a goal of awarding a Gold Medal of Remembrance to every child who has lost a parent in the military serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.Staff Sgt. Malinda Moody said the medal may help to explain to her youngest child, 6-year-old daughter Sabreeyah, why her father is no longer alive.
“She’s always asking, ‘Where is my dad? When is he coming back?'” she said of Staff Sgt. Michael Moody, who was killed June 23 in Baghdad. “I think this will help her come to an understanding about what happened to him.”
A year and two weeks have passed since Sgt. Velton Locklear III was killed by a roadside bomb while on combat patrol in Iraq. But his widow, Denise Locklear, said the Eastwood High graduate is always on the minds of his family.
“They talk about him every day,” she said of her two sons, Velton Locklear IV, 8, and Nathan, 7, who beamed with the medals hanging on their chests.
Denise Locklear hopes the new medal can inspire a greater awareness for the sacrifices being made in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I really hope people don’t forget what these men and women are doing for their country and that they have families that also need our support,” she said.
Michael D. Hernandez may be reached at email@example.com; 546-6151.