For families with loved ones who served in the military, it’s a gut-wrenching feeling when the time for deployment comes. Some soldiers never return home. For the soldiers who die in combat, their families are known as Gold Star families.
Every day is Memorial Day for families whose soldiers have paid the ultimate sacrifice. Teenagers Kristain and Alyssa Alvarez, who lost their father in the line of duty, say it’s a hole that can never be filled, the siblings are wearing blue and running to keep his memory alive.
Just a few months shy of his birth, Sgt. Conrad Alvarez was killed while serving in Iraq back in 2008. Today, his son Kristian Alvarez says although he has never met his father, his mother and siblings do everything they can to ensure he knows what type of man he was.
“He was like, the one to be like, the goofy one. He liked to goof off, he'd like to just like, have fun, make jokes. He inspires me,” said Kristian.
Kristian said this Memorial Day, he wanted to honor his father and the other men and women who have lost their lives fighting for our freedom. With the help of his mother, Maria Alvarez he started his journey with the Wear Blue: Run to Remember imitative.
“I decided just to do this because I like to run for my dad,” Kristian said. “It's like a, so it's a group that where they help kids reconnect with their lost ones with by running the 3k. They could either run or walk or jog. It's either their pace. And, they have these mentors. We celebrate the fallen soldiers, and we honor them because we don't want to forget what they did.”
Kristian and his mother drove to San Antonio every weekend to participate in activities weekly, which all will lead up to the big event on Memorial Day.
Kristian’s sister Alyssa Alvarez said she will be running this weekend too, in honor of her father.
“I do remember us having a close bond. I remember him like always wanting to see me and be there for me whenever he could,” said Alyssa. “I believe that I owe it to him to continue to make him proud and do whatever I can to keep his memory alive,” she said.
It’s a hole that can never be replaced but the stories and memories about the man that was Sgt. Conrad Alvarez keeps his spirit alive.
“I just I cherish it, you know, knowing that he's not here anymore but I do have those valuable memories with me,” said Alyssa.
Gold Star Families like the Alvarez’s are the reason why Doug Gault Chief of Operations at the Texas State Veterans Cemeteries is working to raise funding for a Gold Star Memorial here in Central Texas.
Gault said, “The families also gave the ultimate sacrifice because their loved ones or has passed. So, we have, we have to continue to honor them, the veterans and the families and to include Gold Star families.”
As you walk through any Texas State Veteran's cemetery to pay your respects, you may notice the letters KIA on some headstones. It signifies a soldier who died in combat. There are currently 34 soldiers who have died in the line of duty, buried at The Central Texas Veteran Cemetery.
Gault said, “Thank them for their sacrifice, and then know that they gave the sacrifice too. A lot of people don't understand the fact that family sacrifices too. So, we thank them for their sacrifice and let them know that we're here for them if they need anything.”
Gault said the organization has been working for the past two years to get a Gold Star Memorial for each of the state veteran's cemeteries. It’s an initiative he says he will continue to fight for to ensure families like the Alvarez’s know they are never forgotten.
To donate to the Gold Star Monument initiative click here.