MOUNDSVILLE, W.Va. (WTRF) – Memorial Day is a time to pause and remember the sacrifices of our veterans.
Without the loss of their lives fighting for our country, we wouldn’t be able to live ours in the way we wish.
There’s no one who feels that loss more than our Gold Star Families.
Gold Star Family is a title they never wanted, but they now have.
So many of those families have taken devastating losses of their loved ones and turned them into a way to help our veterans and communities.
The Shilling family from Marshall County is one of them.
“Heath Bradley Schilling. Never forget who he was. Honor him.”Rose Shilling, Gold Star Mother
As you drive through Moundsville you’ll see his name, forever memorialized above Route 2.
It’s a name that represents a life well-lived and cut too short.
“He graduated from John Marshall and he was in baseball and football and track. He was a good kid. He was. He had lots of friends.”Rose Shilling, Gold Star Mother
After high school, Heath joined the Navy.
“My husband (Don) joined the Navy and he retired and my son wanted to follow in his footsteps.”Rose Shilling, Gold Star Mother
PO3 Heath Bradley Shilling was killed in a motorcycle accident while on active duty in Norfolk, Virginia in 2001.
His mother, Rose, said he was more than three years into a promising Navy Career. He was named Junior Sailor of the Quarter, was up for the honor again and was a possible candidate for the SEALS.
She was proud of her son and still is.
Rose remembers him always through her work as First Vice President of the West Virginia Gold Star Mothers.
“All the Gold Star mothers try to honor each other and take care of each other so that our children are remembered.”Rose Shilling, Gold Star Mother
A Gold Star Mother lost a son or daughter while serving in the military.
In West Virginia, their work stretches all over the state.
“We donate things to the veterans centers. We are with the Black Diamond Girl Scouts and we distribute Girl Scout cookies to our veterans. We help out with utility bills. We bought a refrigerator and a water tank because one of the guys didn’t have water for two years.”Rose Shilling, Gold Star Mother
The West Virginia Gold Star mothers also plant memorial orchards as a lasting symbol within communities. Each tree bears the name of their son or daughter who was lost.
“When people go to visit the orchard they know that those are for our children. When the orchard produces they will give back to the community.”Rose Shilling, Gold Star Mother
Their losses are great and their impacts on the community through service may be even greater, but the Gold Star Mothers, fathers and families ask for only one thing.
The best way, they say, to honor their sacrifice.
“Just say their names. That’s all we ask for.”Rose Shilling, Gold Star Mother
Heath Bradley Shilling.
We will certainly say his name.
The Shilling family said they are one of about 55 Gold Star Families across West Virginia.