DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT) - "They said we regret to inform you that your son, Joshua Rath died at 7:17 this morning," Darlene Rath, SSG. Josh Rath's mother, recalls from the day she learned her son was killed overseas. "After he was gone the whole family fell apart because we don't have Josh to console us."
Staff Sergeant Rath died during a tour in Afghanistan in 2009, his second tour after finishing one in Iraq.
"It was nine days before his birthday. He was about to turn 23," Rath said.
Rath's mother said she clings to her faith to keep her strong. She said she finds comfort in believing that Josh is now in heaven.
"He said 7:17 so I latched onto that 17 as from God that this was the right time for Josh to go."
For Rath and fellow Gold Star Mothers, Memorial Day is not the same now that we honor their sons and daughters.
"I actually came to these things before Josh even went in the Army," Rath said. "Now it's almost like I need this."
Hundreds of people visited Roselawn Funeral Home and Cemetery in Decatur on Monday to show families their loved ones are not forgotten. They were joined by the VFW and the American Legion, as well as a number of community leaders.
"I think it just helps give them time to reflect and to let them know that there are folks out there who are honoring their service and sacrifice and that it wasn't in vain," PO2 (Ret.) Shay Cannon said.
The Memorial Day Service in Decatur ended with an American flag retirement ceremony and a free lunch.