BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - For four decades, South Mississippi has been saluting the military. This year, the 40th annual Salute to the Military placed special attention on Gold Star families, honoring the loved ones of servicemembers who have died while serving our country.
Dressed in black tie, the Mississippi Coast Convention Center was filled with servicemen and women from all branches of the armed forces.
Each year, the event’s board tries to find a different area of the armed forces to pay tribute to. This year, it was about honoring the lives and loved ones of those no longer with us.
“It was brought to our attention that Gold Star Families don’t get a whole lot of recognition," said event co-chairperson Rob Coniglione. “So we thought what better place to acknowledge them than at an event, the 40th anniversary.”
An empty seat at a lone table was set aside for those soldiers who fell in battle or who are still missing in action. Symbolizing the emptiness their loved ones are feeling years, even decades since their death or disappearance.
When asked about the importance and significance of Gold Star families and their fallen loved ones, Congressman Steven Palazzo said, “At the end of the day, they sacrificed probably more than a service member.”
Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith was also invited to the evening’s Salute. She authored a resolution honoring the families of fallen soldiers which the United States Senate passed last month.
“These are the people who we owe great gratitude. We really do. That’s a serious statement for anybody who lives in this country,” said the senator.
Fourteen families were honored for the sacrifices their loved ones made. Part of that salute included a 15-minute video played after dinner detailing the courage and heartache that comes with bearing the Gold Star status. One of those distinguished guests was Diane Moore, whose father has been missing in action since 1965.