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Posted: 8/16/2007 8:12:37 PM EDT
Local residents urged to help make 'Time of Remembrance' a success

By Lynda Jo Gross
Who truly understands the family of a fallen soldier's loss and can
help them
heal? For Shirley Schmunk of Richland, the answer's clear: "All of us."


Schmunk is currently organizing the first-ever state of Washington
2007
Time of Remembrance and has sent out donation request letters to help
financially compensate families trekking to the event.

The event honors families that have lost a soldier in Iraq or
Afghanistan.
She's no stranger to the subject matter behind the event. Her son,
Specialist Jeremiah W. Schmunk, was killed in Baghdad in 2004.

"The grief of losing Jeremiah is slowly going from unbearable to
manageable, in part because of the outpouring of support from family,
friends
and all the wonderful people across the country who only know me as the
mother of a fallen hero," she wrote in her contribution request letter.


According to Washington State Department of Veteran Affairs
Community and
Public Relations Director Colleen Gilbert, two similar events have been
held
on a national level, which were hosted by the White House Commission of
Remembrance.

Gilbert said that during the first ceremony, Washington state had
lost
just short of 70 soldiers. Only seven families were able to attend.
During
the second ceremony, Washington state had lost 77 soldiers. Only two
Washington families were able to attend.

Said Gilbert of Schmunk, "Shirley said, 'This isn't right. We've
got to
bring these families together on more of a local basis'."

Gilbert said that Schmunk first simply picked up the phone and
called a
National Guard official and asked for a plane to take families from
Washington state to D.C. for the ceremony. That wasn't a reasonable
request,
but it did help Schmunk contact another individual, Tom Riggs of Camp
Murray.
From that sprang a meeting in which all veterans service organizations
were
invited and the state of Washington's 2007 Time of Remembrance was
born.

Gilbert said an extensive fundraising campaign is currently
underway to
bring together Washington families who've lost soldiers in Iraq or
Afghanistan without financial concerns.

"We still need help. We still need donations," Gilbert said.
The event is slated for Sept. 29 and 30 in Richland and various
sponsorship levels are available.
The Tri-Cities group A.C.E.S., which stands for American Citizens
Encouraging Support, is the 501 c 3 conduit for tax deductible
donations to
the event. According to A.C.E.S. founder Carol Boe, so far $23,000 has
been
raised. The goal, Boe said, is $100,000.

Said Boe, "We've all been working really, really hard to make this
happen. We would like to be able to compensate the families better than
what
we're likely going to be able to do."

It is estimated that $1,000 will sponsor a family and sponsorship
levels
vary. The highest level of sponsorship is the Soaring Eagle level,
which is a
donation of $10,000. Donors will receive a flag in a shadow box,
recognition
in print and radio advertising, on posters and a display booth on the
first
day of events. Sponsorships are also available for $5,000 (which does
include
a flag in a shadow box), $2,000 and $1,000. At the Generous Hearts of
Giving
level, any donation is welcome.

"Every little bit helps," said Boe.
Boe said in-kind donations are more than welcome too.
The first event takes place on Saturday, Sept. 29, at Howard Amon
Park in
Richland from 1 to 7 p.m. and will include entertainment and food
vendors. It
will culminate with a candle lighting ceremony at 7 p.m.

The second event is set for Sunday, Sept. 30, from 11 a.m. to 2
p.m. at
Flat Top Park in West Richland. It will be a commemorative event
honoring
families and their fallen heroes.

Locally, Lower Valley Honor Guard members from various VFW Posts
are
banding together to raise at least $1,000 to sponsor a family. "We're
all in
it together," explained Grandview VFW Ladies Auxiliary member Louise
Bianchi.
"We just want to work very hard to bring these families together. It's
a time
of healing for them and for the public."

Gilbert agreed, adding that families bond when they meet other
families
of fallen heroes. "You've got to have somebody who understands what
you've
been through."

Donations can be sent to A.C.E.S., P.O. Box 1253, Richland, Wa.,
99352.
Contribution forms can be downloaded from www.dva.wa.gov
<file://www.dva.wa.gov> .

For more information, call Boe at 509-588-9087.
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