MITCHELLVILLE, Md. --
Marines welcomed hundreds of Gold Star families to the national capital region recently for the Families United Weekend of Remembrance July 23-24.
“This weekend, America has shown they will comfort and support these families,” said Gunnery Sgt. William Dixon, a funeral director for the Marine Corps.
More than 2,000 Gold Star family members attended a banquet held in their honor, visited Arlington National Cemetery and enjoyed a day at Six Flags.
“We wanted to show that they still have family,” said Lance Cpl. Teddrick Johnson, a Miami native who volunteered for the event. “We’re still here for them.”
Several Marines from Marine Barracks Washington helped the healing process for all of the families, especially the ones who lost their loved leathernecks in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Robert Derga, whose son, Cpl. Dustin Derga, died in Iraq in 2005 while serving with Company L, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment.
“I’m very proud Dustin is part of that legacy,” he said.
Derga, who serves as a board member on Military Families United, one of the sponsors for the weekend, added that gatherings like this give Gold Star families a chance to bond.
“Our friends and family don’t always understand when we laugh one minute and cry the next,” he said. “Weekends like this show we’re not alone, and what we are experiencing is normal.”
Johnson, an administrative clerk with Headquarters and Service Company, said one of the reasons he volunteered to help out involved his family’s history with the Marine Corps.
“There’s a tradition of support,” he said. “I do this because I know that if something happens to me, there will be Marines who will come support my [family].”
The Families United Weekend of Remembrance ended with a concert by country singer Aaron Tippin and Lt. Col. Mike Corrado, operations commander for U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific. Corrado, an accomplished musician who has opened for Bon Jovi, The Black Eyed Peas and John Mayer, traveled several thousand miles from Camp H. M. Smith, Hawaii, just to perform.
“To be able to help be part of the healing process is humbling,” Corrado said.
For more information on Gold Star families, visit www.goldstarfamilies.com.