Luminary sheds light on lives lost
The Gold Star Luminary Initiative held on Sept. 29 shed light on the real loss of fallen military, even in small towns like Checotah. Eighty-seven luminaries were lit at dusk for the lives lost while in service to our country.
Jean Gawf, organizer of the event, is a military mom who is very aware of the struggles of these families. She has lost family herself and currently has one son who is active in the Marines.
"I just wanted to start something in our community to remember and honor these families that have suffered such a tragedy,"Gawf said.
The evening began with Gawf welcoming the Gold Star families and approximately 100 people who came to support them.
The Mvskoke (Creek) Nation Honor Guard presented the colors and the crowd said the Pledge of Allegiance.
Curtis Hartshorn said the prayer while the Blues Notes, under the direction of Carolyn Hutcherson, sang several patriotic hymns.
The special speakers of the night were Senator Roger Thompson and Sgt. Alicia McMahon, U.S. Army Veteran.
Other dignitaries included State Representative Avery Frix, Assoc. District Judge Brendon Bridges of McIntosh County and Checotah city councilman Tony Fields.
There were also four U.S. Coast Guard who came to pay their respects to these Gold Star families.
After the Gold Star family members lit their loved one’s luminary, a slide presentation was played listing all the military men and women.
To conclude the service Travis Sempel played “Taps.”
“It was a very emotional and humbling night for everyone,” Gawf said. “I want to thank everyone who helped set up, Jerri and Gene Holder, the McIntosh County Democrat staff and Teresa Stevenson. I also want to thank everyone who helped with this special event and a big thank you to our Gold Star families.”
Several Gold Star families came from Tulsa, Tahlequah and even as far as Georgia.
Michael D. Coon came to honor his son, Michael K. Coon, who had completed his third tour of duty but struggled with PTSD and committed suicide in 2015.
After losing his son, Coon Sr. started Mission 22, a non-profit that combats the ever-rising veteran suicide rate. Because every day an average of 22 veterans are lost to suicide. But Mission 22 wants to bring that number to zero.
Gawf also does her part to raise awareness in McIntosh County.
Coon was very appreciative of the luminary service as were all the other Gold Star families because these families unfortunately understand that “all gave some, but some gave all.”