Service members' lives honored at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Cemetery

NEWTON, Miss. (WTOK) - Hundreds gathered at the Mississippi Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Newton on Memorial Day to pay tribute to those who lost their lives fighting for our country. Newscenter 11 spoke with one Gold Star mother who says Memorial Day means something different to her now.

Americans have been observing Memorial Day for over a century, honoring the soldiers who paid the ultimate price for freedom. Monday at the Mississippi Veterans Memorial Cemetery was no different.

“It’s very emotional for Gold Star families, especially mothers and spouses. Over this whole weekend, a couple of the mothers that have been with us here at the Mississippi Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Newton. They’re very emotional, but they’re very appreciative,” said Stacey Pickering, the executive director of Mississippi Veteran Affairs.

Gold Star families are immediate family members of a fallen service member who died while serving in the armed forces. Wilma Allen became a Gold Star mother when she lost her 25 year old son Sgt. Robert Shane Pugh in Iraq in 2005.

“He was an outgoing, loving,caring person. He joined the military because he wanted to be a medic. He wanted to help people. That’s how he died. He died helping somebody,” said Allen of her son’s passing.

Sgt. Pugh was killed after an IED exploded, hitting him and his own sergeant. As the only medic there, Pugh was able to tell others how to save his sergeant’s life. Unfortunately, Pugh didn’t make it.

“I heard a door shut, and I saw men outside in dress uniforms. I was the only one at home at that time, but it didn’t take long in a small town for it to spread and there were people everywhere,” said Allen.

Allen said after all this time, she is still proud of her son and his courage to serve our country, especially on Memorial Day. She says the day means something different now.

“It doesn’t mean hot dogs and hamburgers and cookouts anymore. It means somebody gave their life so that I could stand here," said Allen.

After his death, Sgt. Pugh was awarded the Silver Star for saving his sergeant’s life.