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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Honoring a Gold Star mother

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Dan Brown, from Post #963, Veterans of Foreign Wars in Springfield, presented Teresa Stark with a Bible in recognition of her sacrifice as a Gold Star mother, and the divine strength that helped her through the sacrifice. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
A ceremony recognizing Teresa Stark, mother of the late Army explosives demolition expert Christopher Stark, received the honor of Gold Star mother in a ceremony held on Sunday at the Monett Community Church on Sunday.

Specialist Christopher Stark died on Feb. 28, 2011 while on active duty in Afghanistan.

The Gold Star ceremony was conducted by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #963 in Springfield and Post #4207 in Monett. Since 2002, 15 area soldiers have been killed in active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. A Gold Star mother ceremony has been held by the VFW for 11 of those families.

The ceremony opened with comments by Ken Madison, commander of the Monett VFW Post, after which Teresa Stark was escorted in to sit with her parents in the front row. She was escorted by First Sergeant John Marbut from the Junior ROTC program in Monett. Stark was formally introduced by Danny Brown from Post #963.

Robin Braun sang the National Anthem. She was accompanied by Junior ROTC cadets Michelle Rone and Virginia Higdon.

Cadets from the Junior ROTC program at the Scott Regional Technical Center enacted the battlefield cross ceremony. Four different cadets, one at a time, came forward to honor a fallen comrade. Cadets placed a combat rifle, barrel down, into the ground. On the stock of the rifle was set a helmet, dog tags and boots.

Two videos were shown. The first showed the U.S. flag, accompanied by Michael W. Smith's song, "There She Stands." The second showed the return of the body of a fallen soldier with the "Angel Flight" song by Radney Foster. Ray Boltz's song "Honor to Serve" was played with scenes of the flag projected on the stage screen.

Above the proceedings was projected the photo, taken in Afghanistan, of Christopher Stark and his team leader, Staff Sergeant Chauncy Mays, conducting reconnaissance on a hilltop. Mays was also killed in the attack with Stark.

Teresa Stark expressed her appreciation to the Monett community for the love and support extended to her during the loss of her son, Specialist Christopher Stark, who was killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2011. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
Brown presented a Bible to Stark as the official gift to a Gold Star mother. Brown said Christopher Stark "simply did his job until the time that he saw God," and he praised Teresa for her love of God that has carried her through the pain of losing her son.

Painter Dave Garner presented a painted portrait of Christopher Stark to his mother.

Teresa Stark said the photo used by Garner for the portrait was taken at the last family gathering.

"Christopher had that grin on his face in that photo that captured the boy he was, a little ornery and a sparkle in his eye," Teresa Stark said.

Teresa Stark entered the Gold Star mother ceremony on Sunday escorted by Staff Sergeant John Marbut with the aisle lined by cadets and VFW members at attention to show their respect. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
"Monett is a gold star community," she continued. "The support that's been provided to this day has been so humbling."

Stark thanked the VFW for its ceremony. She added her son was receiving the reward for his service, meeting his father, who died four months before Christopher was born, and savoring what heaven had to offer.

Tom Gardner, a Vietnam war veteran with Post #963, continued the ceremony by describing combat stories of soldiers, noting it takes up to 10 people in support roles for every soldier in a combat role. He asked all the veterans in the audience to rise and be acknowledged.

Cadets from the Monett Junior ROTC program conducted the battlefield cross ceremony at the Gold Star mother program. Shown above, the cadet at left completed placing the helmet of the fallen soldier on his rifle, and saluted the guard on duty. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
Allen Hosier, with Post #963, then read the names of the 15 soldiers killed in southwest Missouri. The list included Matthew Wilson, of Miller, and James Morris, of Aurora. Plans were announced to hold a Gold Star luncheon for honored families next May on Armed Forces Day.

Taps were played. Cass Schreib, a Marine Corps League chaplain from Springfield, sang Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A." and asked the audience to join him on the final verse.

Lieutenant Colonel Maella Blalock, with the Monett Junior ROTC program, offered the closing remarks. She thanked the church for use of the facility and said it was an honor to be able to recognize the Stark family.

Artist Dave Garner presented a portrait painting of Specialist Christopher Stark to Teresa Stark. Garner is painting all of the area soldiers killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at the request of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
A display of photos and memorabilia of Christopher Stark's was set up in the church lobby.

Teresa Stark spoke to the audience at the Gold Star mother ceremony while the photo of her son, Specialist Christopher Stark, was projected above the proceedings. Christopher Stark, at right, is shown with his team leader, Staff Sergeant Chauncy Mays, who was also killed in the attack that killed Stark. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]

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