Columbia group hopes to spread awareness of Gold Star Mother's Day

Thursday, September 23, 2010 | 11:49 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Though most people don't know it, the last Sunday in September is a day set aside to honor the mothers of troops lost in battle.

An organization in Columbia for military parents feels that Gold Star Mother's Day, established in 1936, hasn't received enough attention, despite America's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The founder of Marine Parents, Tracy Della Vecchia, has been trying to change that.

"That will increase the awareness and increase the opportunity for all of us to remember the heroes who sacrificed so much for us," Vecchia said.

The organization has reached out to its nationwide network of military parents and asked them to light a luminary in a window of their home Sunday if they have lost a son or daughter in the armed forces, Vecchia said.

She said she hopes neighbors will see the lights and ask about them, spreading the message of the day of remembrance.

Brake Printing, in Columbia, provided discounted fliers to promote the event, Vecchia said. She then sent those fliers to members of Marine Mothers around the country.

"It's a very grassroots effort," Vecchia said.

Sandy Deraps, a Jamestown resident who lost her son, Lance Cpl. Leon Deraps, in Iraq in 2006, said she will be lighting a candle Sunday to recognize those who have died in war.

"I just hope that it gives awareness and thanksgiving to the service men and women that are giving their lives to helping others and serving others," Deraps said.

On Gold Star Mother's Day, she said she plans to present a $6,500 check to the St. Louis Fisher House, which provides services to the family members of injured veterans in the VA hospital there. The money came from a trivia night in Ballwin that the St. Louis chapter of Gold Star Mothers put on to help fund the Fisher House, Deraps said.

She said the day should help people realize the sacrifice that soldiers go through to protect both our country and the countries where they fight.

"We take it for granted every day," Deraps said. "We just jump in the car to go to Wal-Mart. People over there in Iraq and Afghanistan can't do that."

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