Gold Star Spouses Day was April 5th. Yesterday. And I totally forgot all about it. To tell you the truth, I’m a little ashamed of that fact. More than a little, if I’m being honest.

Ironically, my wife asked me over dinner last evening if I was going to write anything about the day.

Memories started flooding back into my head and I felt a bit sick to my stomach. How many memorials have there been? How many grieving widows did I give comfort to? Has my life become so far removed from their pain that I do not even remember?

For those of you who may not be aware, April 5th of every year has been set aside to pay tribute to the sacrifices of the husbands and wives of our fallen comrades. We celebrate their lives, their memories, and their achievements. These were spouses, sons, daughters, dear friends, and teammates who didn’t get to come home like we did. They never got that welcome home party or long-missed kiss. They never got another hug from their kids or got to read them another bedtime story. They gave all, and dammit, the least we can do is remember that with a nod, a smile, and a toast of our glass. That’s what I’m doing this evening in my private remembrance.

Out of the three hundred or so pieces I’ve done for SOFREP, I’ve only covered one Gold Star Spouse story: the moving tale of Char Fontan Westfall.

Char is the Gold Star wife of Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer Jacques Fontan, who died as part of a quick reaction force during Operation Red Wings. She is also a good friend of the SOFREP family.

Our interview was an emotional one on both sides. Even though 17 years have passed since Jacques died, emotions are still raw. He was always there with an easy smile, ready to help anyone in need.

As you might imagine, Char, a deeply religious woman, was angry and confused at her husband’s passing. She began pulling away from God and questioning what lesson she was supposed to learn from her loved one’s death and what she did wrong. Which, of course, was nothing, but you can’t always immediately realize that when you are in the middle of such a situation.

After being conflicted for an entire year, Drew (Char’s husband today) encouraged her to attend church with him and seek counseling through the congregation.

It worked; Char realized this and told me,

“Eventually, I saw that He was there, carrying me through the hardest times.”

I’m glad she could find peace.

In a very real way, the rest of the military community and surrounding support system are here to help Gold Star and all military families to achieve balance and understanding in their lives. It’s not an easy life we have chosen. Marriages are stressed, parents are absent…and then there is the constant sense of dread that something could go wrong. Unfortunately, sometimes it does. And as a military community, we are here to help put the pieces back together again.

SOFREP salutes the brave men and women who have given their all, and we appreciate and recognize the sacrifices of their surviving spouses.

** If you’d like to read more about Char’s story of resilience and survival, you can find it in her book,  A Beautiful Tragedy: A Navy SEAL Widow’s Permission to Grieve and a Prescription for Hope.