GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Lola Mondy and Carol Johnson sat beside each other during the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans' Memorial Day ceremony Monday: Mondy carrying a young picture of her son, while Johnson wore a button of her son in uniform.
They are Gold Star Mothers: women who lost their children serving our country. Mondy said she honors the fallen this day and always.
“It’s every year, it’s all the time," said Mondy.
Mondy's warm smile beamed of pride for her son who served during the Vietnam War for about 10 months.
"He was a good boy," she said, "my only child."
Opening her wallet, Mondy pulled out a picture of her son Lloyd Slack, only a boy of six or seven in this small picture. She reminisced of the letters he would write, telling her he was okay. Then she recalled her last care package arriving just before she lost him.
“Christmas time I sent him a box," she said. "They told me it was too large. [I brought] it back and brought three of them, that’s what I did. So he got his box, but it’s a good thing that I did, because December the 14th, that's when he got killed in the Vietnam War.”
In the afternoon sun a bell rung once after each veteran's name was read; service men and women who died this year, each having lived at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans.
Seated with Mondy in the front row, Johnson recalled her son Staff Sgt. Gregory McCoy's dream to join the U.S. Army.
“It was his lifelong dream to go into the Army as his grandfather had," said Johnson. “He’d take care of anybody in a heartbeat.”
McCoy was killed during his second deployment when an IED exploded in Baghdad, Iraq alongside another solider.
Remembering their sons always, Johnson, Mondy, and other mothers, whose children still serve, laid flowers in their children's names.
“Makes me extremely proud of Greg because they’re returning to Memorial Day being about the fallen soldiers," said Johnson. "And what better way to keep his name alive.”