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Gold Star spouse shares her story

Jennifer Parmar and her family pose at the JBLM children's museum, April 2, 2022. Parmar and her kids are a Gold Star family, which are the immediate family member(s) who has lost a soldier in the line of duty. Photo credit: Spc. Karleshia Gater

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JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD - Deployments are a way of life for soldiers, many of whom have deployed multiple times for extended periods in service to their country.

Spouses and families of service members often incur the stress of having a loved one sent to a faraway land, constantly worrying about the safety of their soldier. The anxiety can create sleepless nights and an ongoing fear that their soldier will not return the same way they left. This fear became a reality for Jennifer Parmar whose husband, Sgt. 1st Class Abraham Parmar, was a mechanic with the 17th Field Artillery Brigade.

Jennifer and Abraham met in Germany when she was a Department of Defense teacher. They got married after only 101 days of knowing each other, but Jennifer stated that meeting Abraham was like coming home. It felt like they knew each other their whole lives. He was a coach to their kids, a leader to his soldiers, and would always drop everything to help anyone.

"(Abraham) hated to leave me and our eight kids, but he loved to deploy," said Jennifer. "He loved to help soldiers be the best they could be and at the same time he loved to be home. He wanted to make the world a better place for all children."

During one of his six deployments, Abraham suffered a traumatic brain injury, which later generated a stroke that caused his passing in October 2019.

When a service member passes during a time of conflict, the surviving family members are recognized as Gold Star families. Gold Star spouses, such as Jennifer, are the legacies of their service member's ultimate sacrifice.

Survivor Outreach Services (S.O.S.) helps survivors, such as Jennifer, to get through difficult times, assisting with paperwork, recommending programs, and just treating surviving family members like family.

As a mother, Jennifer does all that she can to make sure her kids are happy; including getting them involved in programs that Joint Base Lewis-McChord's S.O.S suggests. One such program is the Gold Star Youth Mentorship Program in which service members are able to guide and mentor Gold Star children through active coping mechanisms, positive encouragement and healthy connections to a life of service.

One of the many mentorship opportunities for Gold Star children is the Wear Blue: Run to Remember, which sets kids that have lost a parent in military service up with an active duty soldier that mentors them and helps them to train up to complete a 5K.

When attending Gold Star events, Jennifer said she and her children are always welcomed with open arms and the other survivors feel like an extended family. She continued on to say the program and the other survivors make the kids feel like they belong.

"I picked up my phone and was able to reach out to one of my Gold Star sisters and say just a few words, she just immediately got it," said Jennifer, with tears in her eyes. "I don't have to explain anything and everyone knows exactly what to say to kind of make you feel like it is all okay."

They offer an additional shoulder to lean on because they know how difficult it is to lose a loved one. They never view each other as a burden, but rather a pillar of strength.

"They try really hard to make everything as easy as possible for us which is incredible," said Jennifer. "When we go into the office, (S.O.S. coordinators) always treat us like they've known us our whole lives.

"You walk into a room and you have people around you who have already gone down this path," Jennifer continued. "You can just kind of sit and exhale, you don't have to censor your thoughts or your words."

Gold Star families are an extension of their loved one's service to the community. They often volunteer at their service member's unit, and participate in community events raising awareness. By doing this they help carry their soldiers memories so they are never forgotten.

"I think that's one of the biggest fears," said Jennifer. "That their sacrifices will be forgotten and gone unrecognized, but I know it will not."

Recently, Jennifer and her family attended an S.O.S. event at the JBLM children's museum, where Brig. Gen. William A. Ryan, I Corps' deputy commanding general for support, and Col. Philip H. Lamb, JBLM garrison commander, spoke with many of the Gold Star families.

"It seems like there's more thriving than there is just surviving in this place," said Lamb, praising the Gold Star spouses and their families for persevering through their pain."

These families continue to be part of the Army family, exemplifying the motto of Soldier for Life and their sacrifice and strength is recognized annually during Gold Star Spouses Day, April 5.

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