OKLAHOMA CITY –
When you think of decorated trees, most think of the Christmas season. For Gold Star Trees, they carry more significance than just the spirit of the holidays—they carry the spirit of our Fallen.
To honor those Fallen and celebrate their lives, Gold Star families, Oklahoma National Guard leadership and members of Oklahoma state legislature gathered as each tree was lit on Saturday during the Gold Star Family Remembrance Dinner and Tree Lighting Ceremony at the Phillips Pavilion at the Governor’s Mansion in Oklahoma City.
The trees display gold stars with the names of each Oklahoma Guardsman who gave their lives in service to their country.
“We are so honored to host this,” said Governor Kevin Stitt, governor of Oklahoma. “I’ve done this every single year since I’ve been governor and it’s our honor to host the Gold Star families here at the governor’s mansion and just to remember and thank the 20 families who paid the ultimate sacrifice.”
Gold Star family is a term that comes from the service flag, which were first flown in World War I by the families of the Fallen. During that time, blue stars were represented by immediate family members in the armed forces of the United States, and when a family member died in combat, the star was changed from blue to gold—the gold representing the price paid in the name of freedom.
“This is something that we get to do every year and it really is an honor and a privilege,” said Brig. Gen. Thomas H. Mancino, adjutant general for Oklahoma. “As I walk over here and look at the young men and women that are on this table, I’m reminded of the solemness of the occasion.”
Although the ceremony represented a somber subject, the event gave the opportunity for leadership and legislatures to eat, laugh, and interact with the Gold Star families and show appreciation for their integral role in the Oklahoma National Guard family.
The Oklahoma National Guard Gold Star Tree honors:
• Sgt. Kyle Brinlee, Pryor, Oklahoma
• Sgt. Buddy Hughie, Poteau, Oklahoma
• CW3 Brady Rudolf, Oklahoma City
• Sgt. Daniel Eshbaugh, Norman, Oklahoma
• Cpl. Michael Thompson, Harrah, Oklahoma
• 2nd Lt. Jered Ewy, Edmond, Oklahoma
• Spc. Augustus Vicari, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
• Staff Sgt. Kirk Owen, Sapulpa, Oklahoma
• Sgt. Anthony Peterson, Chelsea, Oklahoma
• 2nd Lt. Joe Cunningham, Kingston, Oklahoma
• 1st Lt. Damon Leehan, Moore, Oklahoma
• Spc. Joshua Seals, Porter, Oklahoma
• Spc. Christopher Horton, Collinsville, Oklahoma
• Sgt. Bret Isenhower, Seminole, Oklahoma
• Pfc. Tony Potter Jr., Okmulgee, Oklahoma
• Sgt. Mycal Prince, Minco, Oklahoma
• Spc. Francisco Briseno-Alvarez Jr., Oklahoma City
• Spc. Sarina Butcher, Checotah, Oklahoma
• Sgt. Christopher Gailey, Ochelata, Oklahoma
• Tech. Sgt. Marshal Roberts, Owasso, Oklahoma
A public display of the Gold Star Tree will be available for viewing on the 3rd floor atrium of the Oklahoma History Center through December 28th. The Oklahoma History Center is located at 800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive in Oklahoma City. The Center is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission is free for Oklahoma National Guard members and active-duty military with their military identification card.
For more information on visiting the Oklahoma History Center, visit https://www.okhistory.org/historycenter/visitor
For photos of the event, visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/oklanationalguard/albums/72177720304334254