Ocean County Press Release
TOMS RIVER – Each mother, with pride in her voice, stood and spoke about the son she lost while serving in the military.
In the quiet of Room 304 of the Ocean County Administration Building, here, the recollections may have been brief but they were no less moving to the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders and others attending the preboard meeting on March 28.
"We are so honored to have you here and so proud of all of the veterans from Ocean County that have served our country over the years," said Ocean County Freeholder Director Gerry P. Little, who serves as liaison to the Ocean County Veterans Services Bureau. "You and your families have made the ultimate sacrifice for our Country and I want to thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for all you have done."
Gold Star family members joined the Board and County Clerk Scott M. Colabella as he announced the Gold Star Identification Program, overseen by Colabella's office.
"Ocean County is – if not the first – one of the first counties in the state to implement this program," Colabella said. "I join with the Freeholder Board in thanking all of our Gold Star parents for joining us and for the ultimate sacrifice your child made on behalf of our nation so that we can enjoy the freedom we have today."
The identification card was established earlier this year after former Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation creating it.
The "Gold Star Parent" recognizes a parent, legal guardian or other legal custodian of a member of the Armed Forces of the United States who died while on active duty for the United States.
"The Gold Star Parent ID card opens up opportunities for a parent or guardian allowing them to access courtesies like discounts extended to military families," Colabella said.
An identification card can be issued to any Gold Star Parent who is a resident of the County.
"In addition to the veteran identification cards offered by the County Clerk, this program allows for family members of veterans to be recognized," said Ocean County Freeholder John P. Kelly, who serves as liaison to the Ocean County Clerk's office. "The Board of Freeholders appreciates the efforts of the County Clerk as we all recognize our service men and women and their families."
Colabella noted his office has issued more than 10,000 veteran identification cards.
The Gold Star Parents identification card displays the words "Gold Star Parent," bears the true name and branch of the armed forces in which the person who lost his or her life while on active duty served, and other identifying information as certified by the applicant.
Applicants need to show any or all of the following: Certification from an organization formed for the support of parents of members of the armed forces who lost their lives while on active duty for the United States, that the applicant is a parent, legal guardian or legal custodian; the service member's federal DD Form 1300, Report of Casualty, which identifies the member of the armed forces who died while on active duty for the United States and or documentation indicating the applicant's relationship to the service member.
Freeholder Little said the Gold Star Mothers program, which dates back to 1917 and was officially established as a national organization on June 4, 1928 was named after the Gold Star that families hung in their windows in honor of the deceased veterans.
"These family members continue the tradition of the program helping to raise funds for veterans, active duty service members and their families, as well as other Gold Star families," Little said. "They are active year-round, visiting veterans at homes and hospitals… letting them know someone is always there for them."
Colabella said it was a privilege to implement this program in the Ocean County Clerk's Office.
"It's so important to honor the parents of military members who died while on active duty," Colabella said.
Little said that during the War on Terror, Ocean County has lost 13 sons to the war.
He added that in every conflict, Ocean County families have made the ultimate sacrifice.
The last Gold Star mother to speak at the freeholder meeting was Shirley Parrello of West Milford. Her son, Brian Parrello was 19 and a Marine Lance Corporal who enlisted after September 11, 2001. He was killed in action on Jan. 1, 2005.
Parrello said he left behind two brothers who now are serving in law enforcement.
"They couldn't be prouder," she said.
The Gold Star Family Identification Card program can be accessed at the County Connection at the Ocean County Mall, here, the Ocean County Courthouse, 118 Washington St., here, and the Ocean County Southern Service Center, Main Street, Stafford Township.