While some Americans prepare to attend Memorial Day cookouts leading up to Monday, May 29, 2023, a lesser acknowledged population will remember the raw pain of losing loved ones who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Janice Chance, the Gold Star Mother Maryland Chapter, Inc.’s president and chaplain, will be among them. Chance resides in the Owings Mills area. A Gold Star Mother is one whose child died during military service, or as a result of their service, or are missing in action.
“I became a member of the group that nobody ever wants to become a member of— A Gold Star Mother. My heart is always a little heavy on the day [Memorial Day], but at the same time, I’m proud to be the mother of one of our nation’s fallen heroes. Memorial Day is important to me because it’s a day of national awareness and reverence, honoring and remembering our earthly heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice,” Chance said.
She added that it is important to help people to understand that Memorial Day is not about cookouts or shopping. Freedom is enjoyed because of our service members.
“Freedom is not free. It is bought with a price,” Chance said.
Gold Star Families across the nation will hold tight to a mixture of precious and painful memories of fallen service members on Memorial Day.
“The day before my son was killed, I had an eerie feeling. I know when something’s happening with my children,” Chance said, recalling a painful life event that connects to her fallen Marine.
The process of elimination told the perceptive mother that something was amiss with Captain Jesse Melton III. Unfortunately, Chance found out that her gut instinct was correct about her Christian officer and gentleman on September 9, 2008.
“On the day that, I was told that a son made the ultimate sacrifice. I was not home. When I came home, my [other] son told me, ‘Mom, two Marines and a Navy Corpsman have been here and they said that they will be back,” Chance said.
The delegation returned to Chance’s residence to deliver a message. Melton was killed in action along with two other Marines, First Lieutenant Nicholas Madrazo and Navy Corpsman Eichman Strickland, and an Afghan interpreter.
“God gave me supernatural strength and peace,” Chance said, referring to her response of hearing the heartbreaking news.
Spiritual bootcamp that resulted after her first marriage sadly ended in a divorce. However, the divorce resulted in her drawing closer to God. Chance added that prior to her son’s deployment, he told her that had a bad feeling that he was either going to be wounded or killed. Melton also told her mom that he wanted to “go change the world, make difference and bring God Glory that people won’t ever forget.”
“’Mom, I don’t want to die, but if I do, it’s a win-win situation. I’ll go home to be with Jesus early,’” Melton previously said, according to Chance.
Ironically, Melton was supposed to be off duty the day he was killed. He agreed to take the place of another Marine. Two days later, the other Marine who did not go on the mission as planned welcomed a new baby girl into his family.
Melton’s mother continues to keep his legacy and memory alive by helping veterans, those currently serving, their family and serving in the community. In addition to her leadership as president, and her role as chaplain, she attends services of fallen heroes, veterans whenever possible, and provides support, information to mothers about the National American Gold Star Mothers, Inc. organization and the Gold Star Mothers Maryland Chapter, Inc. and many other services.
Chance’s daughter, a former United States Army Captain and Iraqi War veteran, Jenine Melton, is a Gold Star Sibling. Since her brother’s death, she has dedicated her times and resources to supporting the military and Gold Star community. Jenine stated she was inspired to join the military by her brother’s example of selfless service. He always put others before himself and provided mentorship to her during her time in military service.
“He was just always present. Anyone who was able to call him friend was just blessed for that,” Jenine said. “He was always leading from the front and then he was a friend to the friendless.”
She remembered when her brother first attended college, enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserves, decided to serve in the United States the Marine Corps and complete Officer Candidate School.
“He was essentially my role model, so I looked to him for guidance and advice,” Jenine said.
She mentioned that freedoms and liberties are sometimes taken too lightly.
“Memorial Day is paying honor and tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice to our country. So, when you sit back and you think about that, just keep in mind that those who have lost, they also have families. They miss and mourn them and it is a difficult time for them. So, I just ask people just to take a few seconds to be thankful and grateful,” Jenine said, referring to the men and women who were willing to sacrifice and raise their hands to serve.
Visit www.marylandgoldstarmoms.com to learn more about Maryland Gold Star Mothers.