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.
|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.
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.
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.