Gold Star families honored at MacDill Air Force Base

On April 27, 2011, Lt. Col. N'Keiba Estelle got the heartbreaking knock at her door that no military family ever wants to hear. Her husband, Maj. Raymond Estelle II, had been one of nine Americans killed during a tragic attack in Afghanistan. 

"Often times in this journey, you do kind of feel forgotten, especially after that first year. Everything kind of fades away and there's nobody left standing and they don't remember that you're going through something," said Lt. Col. N'Keiba Estelle, a local Gold Star wife.

Eight years later, Estelle and her two children are still left with a gaping hole in their lives. It's a reality that other Gold Star families also live with everyday.

"I can't walk through this memorial pictorial without feeling sad, feeling emotional," said Nannette Rogers, a Gold Star daughter.

Sunday, dozens of Gold Star families gathered at MacDill Air Force Base to share their stories and to remember their service men and women who were willing to risk it all.

Hundreds of photos lined the walls of men and women in uniform. The legacies they left behind were apparent to all who viewed them.

"Looking at the names of our fallen, you see a little glimpse of who they were and who they were with their families from some of the notes that were left on their pictures from their loved ones," said Rogers.

These local Gold Star families now find strength in each other as they all walk a similar road.

"Hopefully [I will] see them again and connect again and kind of share each other's stories to kind of help each other out on this journey," said Estelle.

The families now using their heroes as inspiration to soldier on.

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"I use the feelings and emotions that I've kind of felt from losing my husband to kind of cycle that back into my service to our country," said Estelle. "I think it's made me committed and more passionate about the job we're here to do."

Estelle now commands a group of airmen in the 6th Communications Squadron at MacDill. It happens to be the same unit where she and her late husband first served together.

Sunday was the first time the event was held at MacDill Air Force Base. However, they told FOX 13 they will have been involved with the event in the past and will continue to take part in events dedicated to honoring Gold Star Families.