The day Sally Wiley replaced the blue star on her flag with a gold star was the darkest day of her life.
Her son, Sean Diamond, was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq on Feb. 15, 2009.
"It was the saddest, worst thing that ever happened in my life. There's no way to describe what it's like losing a child," Wiley said. "It's gut-wrenching. You can't believe it, and you can't understand it."
The Wiley's are one of a few military families in the Valley to have lost a child during wartime.
"We're a very small group here," Wiley said. "There are several in the area, but Douglas County has just three."
Sunday, is national Gold Star Mother's Day. A day to recognize and honor those who have lost a child while serving in the armed forces.
"We don't want anyone to forget our sons and daughters," Wiley said. "It brings attention to the fact there are people in our area that have lost their sons. It's a remembrance day more than a celebration. It reminds them of all the lives that have been lost."
To help cope with her loss, Wiley joined the Gold Star Mothers of America to be connected with other mother's who had faced similar losses.
"When you have lost your son there's a gigantic solace in a club called Gold Star Mothers of America. You don't have to explain anything," Wiley said. "To be a part of an organization where the mothers have been through what you've been through, it's comforting."
Another way Wiley has learned to cope with her loss is by sending care packages to troops overseas.
"I thought I had to do something, and my way of coping is to send packages to the troops," she said. "By taking care of soldiers that are still out there serving our country, it takes the focus off what you have lost."
The 67-year-old is also active in the Veterans of Foreign Wars Ladies Auxiliary post 8583.
She sees herself as a help to the Blue Star Mothers who have sons and daughters currently serving in the military.
"I feel to be an older Gold Star Mother is to be an example to the Blue Star Mothers to know you can lose your child and still carry on with life," Wiley said. "It's all about giving, and you really do receive more when you give."
Francesca Francischine, senior vice president of the ladies auxiliary, has been a member since 2004.
"I joined because I lost my father and then my mother, and I wanted to do something my dad would be proud of," Francischine said. "It's a positive thing to help other comrades and people in the military for when they come back from war. I wanted to make sure that people who were a part of that (war) have a place they can get help financially or healthwise."
The ladies auxiliary works alongside the men raising money and directing veterans to community resources to help them adjust to life after returning home.
The money raised is used to provide veterans from Topaz to Carson City rides to doctor's appointments, food or help with bills.
"We never turn a veteran down," Francischine said. "The money we raise stays in our community."
Their biggest fundraiser is the Buddy Poppies they hand out for a donation on Labor Day, Memorial Day and Loyalty Day on May 1.
"The Buddy Poppies is a significant thing for us, Francischine said. "A poppy signifies the blood of the military that has been shed."
The ladies support youth programs such as the Voice of Democracy and Patriot Pen essay competitions that provides scholarships for sixth grade and high school students, and a youth art program.
Members are also passionate about speaking in the schools about Americanism.
"We don't want Patriotism and Americanism to be lost, and I feel like it's slipping in so many ways," Francischine said. "People want to take God and country out of what America is. It's very important to talk to the youth, so they know how important it is to be an American."
To join the ladies auxiliary, members must be a wife or blood-relative of a veteran of a foreign war.
Membership dues are $25 a year with a portion of it going toward cancer aid for veterans.
Post 8583 has 26 members and is in need of more.
"We would like to have as many as want to join and want to help the community and the veterans who are coming back. We need to get more members to participate in some of our programs so we can keep them going," Francischine said. "If we can help a veteran get the help he needs, that's important."
For more information on joining the Veterans of Foreign Wars or the ladies auxiliary, call 392-0405.