Gold Star families love America ‘passionately’: Lessons from nonprofit’s commemorative journey
A group of American veterans embarked on a cross-country journey to remember the fallen, completing their trek this past Sunday — on the 21st anniversary of the attacks of 9/11.
Project RELO, a nonprofit organization based in Grayling, Michigan, which connects veterans with corporate leaders to secure employment, launched its first-ever “Task Force Tribute” to honor military members lost in combat since 9/11.
The group’s 7,054-mile odyssey from Michigan to Washington, D.C., represented the 7,054 servicemen and women who have died while protecting America’s freedoms since Sept. 11th, 2001.
Additionally, the 22 days of journeying was done in honor of the 22 veterans who commit suicide every day in this country.
The cross-country adventure began on Aug. 21, 2022, in East Lansing, Michigan, with a grand sendoff by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer — and a police escort.
The team of six then headed west in an RV and civilian vehicles.
They hauled a trailer with a built-in recording studio.
They made stops along the way, talking with everyday Americans and listening to the stories of Gold Star family members.
Project RELO chairman and Marine Corps veteran Christian Anschuetz shared with Fox News Digital that even though families who have lost their loved ones “have every reason” to hate America — they still love their country “passionately.”
“And the service members who have lost brothers and sisters in arms, they’re still serving — even though they could’ve gotten out,” he said.
Anschuetz, a Gold Star family member himself, explained that his intention for the journey was to reconnect with America’s communities and veterans.
He said, though, that it has turned out to be much more.
“It’s also been almost a pilgrimage of sorts,” he said. “To reconnect with the essence of the country.”
The plan was to hit major U.S. landmarks en route to exclusive events hosted by communities — from dinner and drinks in Washington state to intimate “fireside chats” in Idaho.
“We shared really deep moments along the way,” he said.
“It’s been one story after another of community, of people coming together — and a country not divided, but a country very much in unison — appreciating everything this country provides us.”
Anschuetz considered it “humbling” to be received by the public so wholeheartedly.
“I really do believe that if we simply looked at our country a little bit differently, we could see that, in fact, most Americans are really proud of this country,” he said.
The group wrapped up their journey at a 9/11 ceremony on Sept. 11, 2022, at the WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Anschuetz revealed that a 2023 Task Force Tribute is already being discussed, as the group plans to create living, virtual memorials with the stories they have collected.
While details of the memorial remain under wraps, Anschuetz said, “We have the ability now to build something that is deeply immersive where we can collect the stories — and actually build relationships between the stories.”
He added, “When we do build this, it will look like nothing the world has ever seen before. It could be something we see substantiate in the metaverse.”