This week, the state of Illinois held its very first Gold Star Families Day. In the past, only mothers have been recognized after a soldier is killed while serving the military. This may be a first for the state of Illinois, but as we take you Inside the Gates, you will see that it is nothing new for the Rock Island Arsenal.
Mary Ann Soenksen is the mother of soldier who gave life in the line of duty. She says, "It kind of like opened our eyes I think, when Katy got killed. It's like, oh my god, that was the girl next door, type of thing."
Army Private First Class Katie Soenksen was killed in Iraq back in 2007. She was only 19.
"They started firing at 'em, but the thing was to get her out, and they couldn't get her out."
Nearly a decade later, her mom is still grieving. The same goes for Cherie Baldwin.
"It's been very hard losing Rob."
Her son, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Baldwin was killed in Afghanistan in 2010. He left behind a wife, and four kids.
His mother Cherie tells Local 4 News, "He turned into a wonderful man and he was a good soldier and his men loved him and thats...one of the things I really remember."
These Gold Star families endure that lingering pain everyday of their lives, and that's where the Rock Island Arsenal comes in.
Jack Wilson is the Survivor Outreach Services Support Coordinator.
"We're talking about moms and dads who live right with us. Who are right here in the Quad Cities."
Their Survivor Outreach Center offers services like partnering Gold Star families together and organizing various support groups and events.
"Don't be afraid to talk to a family member if you find out they've lost someone. They'd really like to tell you, most times, about their son, or their daughter, because it helps them remember," says Wilson.
As for the Gold Star families themselves, they appreciate the Arsenal, and the community for coming together to help them cope with the toughest loss of their lives.
Baldwin says, "It's good to have someone that you can talk to when you need to, and you're not alone."
"I think it gives me some comfort to know that they didn't forget her," says Soenksen.
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