Bells Across America honors fallen service members

Bells Across America honors fallen service members

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - An emotional ceremony as military members who died while serving their country were honored and remembered.

Bells Across America rang out in 40 installations worldwide, including the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport.

As the bells rang, tears were shed; memories rekindled.

“We share the pain of loss of our service members with the families who have lost their loved ones,” said NCBC commander Capt. Bill Whitmire. “But it’s also an extreme moment of pride for all of us for having had the honor of serving with great Americans.”

Twelve families joined the ceremony as 100 soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines were read by Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania and Long Beach Police Chief Billy Seal.

Among those families were that of Staff Sgt. Donnie Levens, a marine who was killed in a helicopter crash in Djbouttie Africa 12 years ago.

“It means a lot to know that any service member is not forgotten and to know that the Gold Stars are here to dedicate time to any service member,” said his mother, Margaret Levens.

She said she has been able to deal with her son's death better than many of the Gold Star families, but the program is needed.

“Donnie wanted to fly since he was 8, and he went down in his helicopter in Djboutti Africa 12 years ago, and he’s still flying with a different set of wings.”

The ceremony was coordinated by the Navy Gold Star Program, which provides long-term support to surviving families of military members of all branches who died while serving their country.

Said Emily Kolenda, Navy Gold Star coordinator: “It’s something that our military community can recognize and really show that these families do matter, and they can publicly see that their loved one is being honored.”

Copyright 2018 WLOX. All rights reserved.