Nevada Gold Star families come together at holidays to remember lost family members

Published: Nov. 20, 2021 at 7:53 PM PST
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - A time to reflect and honor those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

“It’s a great opportunity to get together,” said Steven Ward, who is a Gold Star family member. “Holidays can be tough on Gold Star Families so we use this opportunity to get together, share, mingle, and talk about our fallen heroes.”

For the past four years Ward, and others, who have lost family members in service to our nation have come to hang Christmas ornaments with pictures of those fallen heroes on a tree inside the Atlantis.

Lindy Leonard got to hang an ornament of her father on the tree for the first time. She never met him. He passed away seven days after being involved in a surprise attack from the Japanese in World War II. Lindy’s mother was pregnant with her at the time.

“As I hung it I said ‘this is for you, mom and dad.’ Even though I’m an older woman he was still my daddy,” she said. “I never had him. Putting him on that tree made me feel like I had my dad today.”

Others came to share their story - like Mitka Kalinski - whose experience as a slave to a Nazi in World War II is well-documented.

“I’m very familiar about losing somebody being that my mother was burned alive,” he said. “I wish I could sit down with a cup of coffee and explain what happened.”

The Northern Nevada Gold Star Family consists of about 30 members. For Ward, who has fond memories of his son, Eric, every holiday season it’s about giving our local heroes the spotlight they deserve.

“I know (Eric) would be proud. He knew I’d be a community servant forever anyway,” said Ward. This was just an extra step above for myself to take it on a broader range and bring other families together as well.”

The Christmas tree will be out in front of Bistro Napa through the first week of January.

To volunteer time with Honor Flight Nevada, or to help a Gold Star Family, click here.

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