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Memorial Day is time to focus on those who have sacrificed

Saturday - 5/24/2014, 11:44pm  ET

Ruth Stonesifer (Courtesy of Ruth Stonesifer)
Ruth Stonesifer's son Kris, an Army Ranger, was the first to die in battle in Afghanistan. His service inspired her to become actively involved with Gold Star Mothers, helping other mothers with their loss, grief and healing as they move forward with their lives. Her story will be featured in this year's National Memorial Day concert. (Courtesy of Ruth Stonesifer)

Jessica Greenberg, special to wtop.com

WASHINGTON -- For many Memorial Day weekend is a time for parades and picnics. But for Ruth Stonesifer, a past president of American Gold Star Mothers, who lost her son, Kris, in Afghanistan, the holiday is a time to focus on those who have sacrificed for their country.

"It's a day that we need to forget the barbecue grill sales at the local department store and focus on how we can help veterans," she says.

Her son, Kris Stonesifer, was killed in a 2011 Blackhawk helicopter crash.

"Kris was a U.S. Army Ranger who was killed on the first night of major military operations into Afghanistan about 38 days after 9/11," Stonesifer says.

After his death, Stonesifer searched for an outlet to help cope with the grief and found Gold Star Mothers, a support network for bereaved mothers of deceased war veterans. Her involvement in the organization grew and she eventually became the national president in 2009.

The power of these relationships speaks volumes.

"You don't really need to say anything when you're in the room with another Gold Star Mother. You just automatically know that you have a real common bond."

The bonds formed have helped Ruth cope with losing Kris, serving as a way "to channel her grief into positive action."

The Gold Star Mother "mission is to volunteer for veterans." She says her volunteer work keeps her son's memory alive.

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