COLUMBIA — Paper bags imprinted with gold stars and holding sand and a small candle lined the pathway, honoring fallen military veterans and their families. As the crowd placed the bags on a walkway to Cosmo-Bethel Lake, volunteers handed out small American flags to place next to the luminaries. 

Around 60 people attended Sunday night's ceremony for Gold Star Mother's and Family's Day. The event was hosted by the Luminary Initiative, an outreach of

The purpose of Sunday's event was for military families and the local community to honor members of the armed forces who had died. On June 23, 1936, Congress designated the last Sunday in September to be Gold Star Mother's Day. The day has been observed with a presidential proclamation ever since. This year was the fourth time the luminary lighting ceremony was held in Columbia. 

As the ceremony began at Cosmo-Bethel Park, Master of Ceremony Gary Nolan addressed those in attendance.

"We don't ever want to forget the ultimate sacrifice," he said.

Candice Fields, a volunteer with, said that Gold Star Families are people who have lost a son, daughter, husband or wife in the military.

Nine families were honored on Sunday, Fields said. She said there are more than 150 Gold Star Families in Missouri.

Around 320 luminaries were lit for Missouri's fallen heroes and their families. An additional 30 luminaries were lit for military veterans who had taken their own lives.

When Tracy Della Vecchia, founder of, began to talk about the luminaries that would be lit during the ceremony, her eyes misted and her voice shook.

"It's a tough thing to talk about," she said. "We know these families sacrificed just as much."

Angie Regan, a volunteer with, said that she had been volunteering with the organization for three years. She has one son in the military.

Regan said that the ceremony shows how many military families live in Columbia.

"It's very important to show the support and to give back to those families whose children gave their all," she said.

 Supervising editor is Hunter Woodall. 

  • Community Outreach Fall 2015 studying magazine writing, reach me at or in the newsroom at 882-5720

Recommended for you