In 1984 President Ronald Reagan recognized the profound importance of spousal commitment to the readiness and well-being of military members. Congress officially made Military Spouse Appreciation Day, celebrated on May 12th, part of National Military Appreciation Month.

Latoya Bell experienced two deployments with her husband, Russell Ryan Bell, before he sadly was killed by an IED. Their son, Gage, was only 7-months-old when Russell left. Sadly, over 97% of those killed in action are men, leaving wives with the financial responsibilities of raising a family. Wives of the fallen take on the title of “Gold Star Military Wife,” honoring their bravery and commitment.

“A Gold Star Wife to me is a woman who is the picture of strength, courage and honor.  A Gold Star wife also shows courage to continue on when you want to give up. Also the courage to enter a new chapter of life not knowing what the future for you or child will look like. You gain the courage to move forward and let go of what cannot be changed,” explained Latoya Bell. “Not only does a Gold Star wife honor her fallen solider but you also honor his family, friends and soldiers who have been there and those who continue to be there. You also continue to honor his legacy by continuing to move forward with the hopes and dreams that you all shared together for your child’s future.”

Surviving military wives, like Latoya, endure many struggles, but also find comfort in knowing there are organizations like Children of Fallen Patriots who want to help.