- The Washington Times - Friday, May 23, 2008

Members of the Gold Star Wives of America, women who have lost their husbands in military service, came to the District this Memorial Day weekend to be honored on Capitol Hill and to share their message of faith and determination.

Vanessa McMullen’s husband was a Gulf War veteran who died about five years ago, after a long illness.

She joined the congressionally appointed service club soon after and calls her experience “strengthening.”

“You feel like you’re not alone,” said Mrs. McMullen of Charlottesville.

The group has more than 1,000 members across the country who say their most difficult task is finding military widows and surviving children.

“We try to contact as many as we can, but there’s no list,” said Dorothy Troy, who joined the group nine years ago and is the widow of a prisoner of war. “We have to bring them out of depression. It’s good therapy.”

With members in small and big towns across the country, the wives contact most of the women who have lost a husband in Afghanistan or Iraq by word of mouth, spokeswoman Amy Talley said. However, many have come to rely more on the Internet.

Mrs. Talley said members came to the District this weekend from as far away as Alabama and Alaska.

They were honored yesterday for their efforts at a reception at the Cannon Office Building.

“Thank you for what you do for our country,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat.

The roughly 100 Gold Star women who attended the reception, dressed in their yellow jackets and military-style caps, thanked nine federal lawmakers - including Mrs. Pelosi and Rep. Steve Buyer, Indiana Republican - for their support.

“I will display this award in my office as a constant reminder of each and every one of you,” said Mrs. Pelosi upon receiving a plaque from Rose Lee, chairwoman for the group’s Virginia chapter.

Past group President Rachel A. Clinkscale described a Gold Star Wife as “a woman of courage.”

“She is a parent and a patriot who is not afraid to speak out for all widows,” Mrs. Clinkscale said.