Gold Star Memorial Day 2009


memorialday_04by Amy Branham, Staff Writer

I had every intention to make the trip downtown to the Flag Memorial today and see it when my friends from the local chapter of Veterans For Peace had it all put up.  I went down yesterday and talked to a few people as they were working hard and fast to get it done before the pouring rain hit – but they didn’t quite make it. 

It was my hope that I would be able to convey, through my words, what it’s like to see a field of flags fluttering in the wind, one flag for every man or woman who had died in Iraq while serving our country.  As of last count, that number is 4,300.  Texas has the second highest body count at 2,998, according to  Add to that the number of men and women who have died while serving in Afghanistan, which is 687 and the uncounted number of suicides from soldiers coming back from the battlefront and taken their own lives.   


Military contractors and civilians are not counted, but their numbers would push the body count up much higher. 

Today, I cannot bring myself to make the 40-mile round trip to go down and see this impressive display.   

You see, I do not need one day set aside out of the year to remember those who have lost their lives defending our country.  I live with the reality of that every single day of my life.  I do not need to see one flag for every person because I know the families of many of those whom the flags represent.  Their heartache and pain is my heartache and pain.  We don’t need to be reminded. 

There is one thing for which I am forever grateful and that is those who do take the time out of their busy lives to remember our loved ones, to ensure that we never forget them and their sacrifice.  For this, I will forever be grateful to the local chapter of VFP, who has put up this display every year, and sometimes more than once a year, to inform the public and to remind us of the true, human cost of war.  To the Houston Chapter of Veterans for Peace, (Chapter 12) I give my heartfelt thanks and love for your dedication and service. 

My very pregnant youngest daughter and I will be heading out to her big brother’s grave later today at Houston National Cemetery to leave some flowers and to remember him., even though we don’t need the holiday to remember him, we do it every single day of our lives.   

I cannot help but remember the reasons we were told for going to war with and invading Iraq.  Since then we have learned that everything, every reason we were given, was based on lies.  After eight years of lies and the perversion of just about everything we, as a people in this country believe in, we elected a new Commander in Chief who gave us the promise of Hope and Change.  He promised to end the war in Iraq and many,  many other things. 

I hope he does so very soon, though I am not going to hold my breath because, it would seem, he has done what every other politician eventually does in Washington D.C. and that is to give in to the status quo.  He refuses to look back and learn from the mistakes that were made.  I think President Obama is wrong.  In order to move forward, to being to heal from our wounds, we need to look back and to right the wrongs no matter how hard that may be.  Our nation and even the world needs for us to do this.  

Today I am angry, sad and depressed.  I am praying every single minute of every single day that my son-in-law gets through is tour of duty in Iraq in one piece and comes home to us relatively unscathed.   

And I can very clearly see those flags in the park, fluttering in the breeze, set in the ground so lovingly by veterans who only want to make sure their brothers and sisters are remembered.  I can see the ghostly faces of each and every soldier, a field of them, and I cry.   

In peace and sadness.

Amy Branham, Mother of Sgt. Jeremy Russell Smith, U.S. Army Reserves

November 1981 – February 2004

Houston, Texas



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