Sep 19 2020
Joe Gamm | News Tribune
After more than 15 years since his death, Sandy Deraps' voice sometimes still breaks when she speaks about her son, Leon.
An Eagle Scout, Leon Deraps joined the U.S. Marine Corps right after high school, when he was 17.
In 2006, at only 19 years old, he died while conducting combat duties in Iraq.
Shortly after his death, Sandy Deraps joined a Marines parents group and packed boxes for soldiers overseas.
"When you lose somebody that's dear to you, you want to continue what their mission was," Deraps said. "Helping veterans and helping others is where you truly find happiness."
She soon joined American Gold Star Mothers, an organization that finds "strength through fellowship of other Gold Star Mothers who strive to keep the memory of our sons and daughters alive" through its work with veterans and those who are currently serving in the military and their families, according to the organization's website, goldstarmoms.com.
Deraps is a member of a committee dedicated to creating a Mid-Missouri Gold Star Families Monument and raising awareness of families' sacrifices.
The committee is helmed by civic leaders; state Rep. Dave Griffith, R-Jefferson City; and Operation Bugle Boy.
It has begun fundraising for a $125,000 monument to be placed at the entrance for the new Bicentennial Bridge — adjacent to the Missouri Veterans Memorial on the north side of the Capitol in Jefferson City.
Each year, on the last Sunday of September, communities across the country recognize Gold Star Mothers' Day.
A ceremony honoring Gold Star Mothers is to be at 2 p.m. Sept. 27 (Gold Star Mothers' Day). It will kick off a campaign to create a monument to families who have lost loved ones during military service.
While the ceremony will recognize the sacrifices families have made, it will also feature speakers who can discuss the importance of celebrating the support family back home provide to their loved ones.
All are invited to attend, especially anyone considering joining Gold Star Moms or who may know a potential Gold Star Mom.
Meant to honor their sacrifices, Gold Star Families are those who have a family member in the military who died in the line of duty. The honor dates back to World War I, when families of service members displayed flags featuring a blue star for every member of the immediate family who was serving in the war. If one of those family members died, the star's color would be changed to gold.
Following that, grieving mothers formed a group of American Gold Star Mothers.
Based in Washington, D.C., American Gold Star Mothers, a membership-based organization, is devoted to keeping the memory of deceased service members alive by working to help the military community, according to the organization's website.
The monument is intended to "increase public respect and appreciation for the tremendous sacrifice made by members of our Armed Forces who have given their lives in defense of our country; help make us more mindful of the great sacrifices made also by the families these heroes left behind; and inspire us to do more to make our country worthy of the sacrifices made on our behalf," according to a news release.
The country already has 65 monuments completed and 75 in progress, according to the Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation website.
The organization trying to bring a monument to Jefferson City is committed to having it in place by Aug. 10, 2021, in time for Cole County's bicentennial celebrations.
To donate to the cause, go to hwwmohf.org and specify the Jefferson City monument, or mail or drop off a donation to Legends Bank, c/o Rosie Verslues, 130 E. McCarty St., Jefferson City, MO, 65101. Checks should be made payable to "MMGSFMM."
All donations are tax-deductible.
Operation Bugle Boy helped get the process underway with a donation it sent Thursday.