Caitlin Hatchel had never seen an event honoring fallen Soldiers like the one held in the late morning hours of April 5 at Joint Base Lewis-McChords Memorial Park.
A small gathering of survivors, service members and their family members watched as 10 white doves were released into the sky, representing the spirits of those who were lost in combat during a special Gold Star Spouses Dove Release ceremony.
Hatchel said she was thankful for JBLM Survivor Outreach Services (SOS) because it encouraged survivors to meet and perform ceremonies outside of the role call done by respective units.
Theyre celebrating life, Hatchel said.
JBLM SOS holds several events for Gold Star spouses, Gold Star mothers and survivors from every branch of the local military. The dove release was a first for SOS and the U.S. Armed Forces Reserve Center in Marysville.
We decided we wanted doves because doves are a sign of peace, and were hoping our survivors can be at peace knowing that their loved ones are not forgotten by other people, SOS support coordinator Jane Mouatassim said.
The ceremony began with Chaplain Chris McCarley, 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery reading John 15:13 from the Bible Greater love has no one than this: to lay down ones life for ones friends.
McCarley then said everyone in the military considers close comrades as friends.
If hes willing to lay down his life, if hes willing to go into battle for somebody he doesnt know, this verse has to hold true, McCarley said.
That theme continued as Dan Forsberg, a support coordinator for the Reserve center in Marysville, spoke about how everyone standing there at the park was together on lifes journey looking for meaning, asking questions and learning answers.
Everyone departs and flies their own way and on their own time, but survivors and those who support them are still together while embracing what each cherishes before it flies away, just like the doves.
In the end, the journey together is all people have, Forsberg said.
We dont have to understand, but sometimes we do, he said.
We dont have to love, but sometimes we will. We dont have to be loved, but sometimes we are. Finally, we dont have to remember our loved ones, but want to and we will. SOS coordinators showed their support to the attending survivors, and some active duty brought their family as well.
Sergeant 1st Class Mario Rios of the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security brought his wife, Eva, and children to show their support.
Rios also told his family the dove was a great representation for the birds to show.
For me, it would be good to see the bird as my spirit so I can say my good-byes, Rios said.
Afterwards, everyone met at the JBLM SOS office for refreshments and socialization.
Armed Forces Reserve Office officials said they hope to hold similar events in Washington, including JBLM and Island County.
Our survivors arent just here and we want them to know that the military has not left them, said Sandra Neuman, the Reserve centers financial counselor. Were still here for them and were available.