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Woman makes honoring Gold Star mothers, families her mission

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Becoming a Gold Star family, a family that loses a loved one to the service of their country, is an honor no one ever wants to receive.

Gold Star family members have been recognized since 1936 on the last Sunday of September. A local woman who is honoring these families this year has her own heart-wrenching story to share.

It was March 26, 1993, when Lt. Commander Jon Rystrom set out on what would be his final journey. Rystrom and four other naval aviators were part of Operation Provide Promise, a relief mission to Bosnia, when their plane crashed into the sea, leaving broken hearts and so many questions that remain.

“They never found the plane,” Kris Rystrom Emmert said. “And they never found the crew and the cause of the mishap is unknown. And so here I am, 27 years later and still have no answers.”

After writing the book “Providing Promise: A Navy Widow’s Journey to Hope,” Emmert started hearing from Gold Star wives and mothers who found her words so raw and relatable to their own experiences, like Bobbi Jo Malcolm whose son Jacob was murdered on his base in Fort Polk, Louisiana.

“I could relate as if we were walking in the same shoes, just different paths,” Malcolm said.

Shared stories like that inspired Emmert to do something to recognize East Tennessee Gold Star families.

“There’s not a whole lot of people that have a voice for the Gold Star families, so that’s why I thought I’d go ahead and put it out there and let them know we love you. I’m one of you. You’re not walking this journey alone, and we will never forget the sacrifice your family has made for the freedom of our country,” she said. “If I can make it, you can make it, regardless of what journey you’re going through.”

Emmert is hosting an event to honor Gold Star mothers and families from 2-5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26, at the Knox County Association of Baptists Office, 7709 Westland Drive, in Knoxville. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines will be in place.

You can RSVP for the event on Facebook at www.facebook.com/providingpromise. If you have questions email kris@providingpromise.com or call 423-797-0595.

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