An empty chair and a single lone table was draped in black, signifying all of the fallen service members who could not attend the celebration because they had given the full measure of devotion to our country. A single lighted candled and a Purple Heart medal served as a reminder of battle and those who have fallen in the line of duty. The identification tags were blank, yet they could bear the name of any service member. The dinner setting was inverted, signifying that the fallen break bread in spirit only.
Only a few Americans choose the dangerous and necessary work of fighting our nation’s enemies. As a consequence of that choice, some have paid the ultimate price, joining the honor roll of heroes who built the noble legacy of the Corps. As Marines gather in celebration of history, Gold Star Families gather in shadows of greatness. Though their fallen can no longer participate in the traditions of the U.S. Marine Corps birthday, they will always be a part of the Corps and what it represents.