Date Published: November 2, 2015
Author: Sandy Quadros Bowles
Publication: South Coast Today; Original Article


Local Gold Star families gather as fallen soldiers honored in New Bedford

Local Gold Star families gather as fallen soldiers honored

Gold Star father Steven G.

Gold Star father Steven G. Xiarhos gives the pledge of allegiance to the flag during a event at the New Bedford airport to honor eight area servicepeople killed in action. DAVID W. OLIVEIRA/STANDARD-TIMES SPECIAL/SCMG

NEW BEDFORD — A knock on the door devastated their lives.

A military official, chaplain in tow, arrived with the horrific news that their loved one would come home from service not in happy celebration, but with solemn ceremony.
The instant that news was delivered, eight local families became Gold Star families.

The eight families whose sons were killed in action since Sept. 11, 2001, gathered Sunday at New Bedford Airport to honor their sons: Capt. Benjamin W. Sammis (Rehoboth), Sgt. Joseph Camara (New Bedford), SPC Peter Enos (Dartmouth), LCpl Patrick Gallagher (Fairhaven), LCpl Michael Ford (New Bedford), PO2 Tyler Trahan (East Freetown), Cpl. Nicholas Xiarhos (Yarmouth Port) and LCpl Matthew Rodriguez (Fairhaven.)

The ceremony ended with plaques being placed on Adirondack chairs and tables, each bearing the name of one of the fallen soldiers.

The tables will be added to the area of the playground that bears Rodriguez’s name. The chairs will be placed at the airport’s observation deck.

This is the first in a statewide effort to honor all fallen soldiers across the state, said Michael Knabbe, former airport commissioner who now works with the LCpl Matthew Rodriguez Memorial Foundation.

The foundation, organized by the family of Matthew Rodriguez, aims to place plaques to honor all 148 soldiers killed in action since Sept. 11, 2001.

They hope to place these plaques across the state, on chairs and tables that adorn beaches, playgrounds, parks and other public places. At those locations, people can see them and be reminded of the soldiers’ sacrifices, said Lisa Rodriguez, Matthew’s mother.

The New Bedford police, Greater New Bedford Marine Corps League and Southcoast Young Marines assisted in the ceremony. Motorcycle riders, including the Patriot Guard Riders, rode past VFW posts in Dartmouth, East Freetown and New Bedford before arriving at the airport.

Members of the Patriot Guard Riders held flags while a large flag that flew on the USS Nimitz had a place of honor, flying from a New Bedford Fire Department vehicle. Jean-Pierre Trahan, Tyler’s father, arranged for the flag to salute the fallen soldiers.

U.S. Rep. William Keating told the audience of about 100 people that he remembered well a previous visit to the airport, where he waited for the plane carrying Matthew Rodriguez for his last trip home.

Knabbe said the Gold Star families wear pins and patches that honor their loved ones. “It represents their loss,’’ he said.

As he spoke of the families honored, his voice stopped, choked with the day’s emotion.

For that moment, the only sound was the row of flags, crackling against the early November wind.

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