Local mothers of fallen soldiers honored

More than a dozen families came together at Veteran's Memorial Park in Tampa on Sunday to pay respect to the relatives of fallen heroes.

President Barack Obama proclaimed Sunday, September 27, National Gold Star Mothers and Families Day. The tradition of honoring the mothers of fallen armed forces began in 1936. President Obama extended the honor to include all family members.

There was a silent prayer and gun salute, in addition to mothers who spoke about losing their son or daughter in war.

"It is difficult to share your personal story, but I feel that it needs to be done, so that our loved ones are remembered, said Kelly Kowall, a Gold Star Mother.

Kowall lost her son, Army Specialist Corey Kowall on September 20, 2009. He died in Afghanistan during a vehicle rollover.

"Corey was a soldier from the time he was five. That's all he ever wanted to do," said Kowall. "Although he was only here on Earth for 20 years, he made the most of those 20 years."

There are about 100 Gold Star families in the Tampa Bay area.

A separate ceremony was held on Sunday at the Oldsmar Veterans Memorial Park.

"I think we all look to have labels in our lives, where do we belong, and it wasn't until I met this group that I was able to say, I'm a Gold Star Daughter," said Nikki Smith.

Smith is both a Blue Star Mother and a Gold Star Daughter. Her son served as a doctor in Iraq for 15 months. She lost her military father at three years old.

"It's a difficult transition anytime anyone dies, but in military in particular, I think it's difficult," said Smith.

While families say it can be painful  to reminisce each year, they serve as a support system for one another.

"The pain never goes away, but over time, you learn how to carry that pain a little easier. We're here to help teach them how to carry that pain a little easier," said Kowall.

Sunday's event was hosted by the Gold Star Mothers of Tampa Bay.