OLDSMAR, Fla. — Gold Star families are honoring their loved ones who served and sacrificed this Memorial Day.
A mural at an Oldsmar park honors Cpl. Frank Gross. He was killed in action on July 16, 2011, while serving in Afghanistan.
"Frankie, he was a great son, but he was also a true friend," said his father, Craig Gross.
"He loved Oldsmar and was Oldsmar's hometown son," said his mother, Toni Gross.
The family said part of the mural reflects his last piece of artwork, a picture Cpl. Gross took of himself surfing in Puerto Rico with his arms outstretched in the air. It's the image filling the bottom of the mural.
The remainder of the hero's life and legacy come through everything from stories of him, his photos and even his old GI Joe from the 1980s, which his mom says has a similar story to her son's reality.
"Although Frank had a master's degree at age 24 and could have gone into officer candidate school, he chose to go into infantry so he could be an example for his soldiers," she said.
This Memorial Day, the Gold Star family reflects on the day's meaning.
"I know everybody thinks of it differently, and granted we should be celebrating the lives of our fallen soldiers, but it is a hard day for those who have lost loved ones, and I really hope to promote the fact that we really need to remember why we get to enjoy this long weekend," said Gross' Gold Star sister, Natalie Gross, who also completed The Murph Challenge in her brother's honor earlier in the day.
"They died for every American, and we can never ever forget that," said Craig Gross.
"It is almost a holy and sacred type of a death, and I'm grateful that Memorial Day is observed to give special recognition to those military service members who died in combat theater," said Toni Gross.
Throughout the weekend, tributes honored the brave who gave their lives for our freedom.
Bay Pines VA Healthcare System held a virtual ceremony while people laid flowers at Bay Pines National Cemetery. Another service was held in Palm Harbor at Curlew Hills Memory Gardens.
"While everybody's celebrating his military service and I also do that, I also celebrate Terry, the civilian man," said Gold Star mother Lorrie Fleming.
Her son, Sgt. Terry M. Lisk, was killed in action on June 26, 2006, in Iraq. She says he had a calling to join the military, which she was proud of him.
She spent part of the day with other Gold Star families remembering and honoring their loved ones.
"At 3 o'clock, we all got silent toasted our sons, and we all said our sons name. It's that's how we make sure they're not forgotten is we say their names," she said.
On Memorial Day, she asks this:
"We're not asking everybody to be all full of sadness, we're asking you to honor and remember that these were little boys and they grew up and they fought for your freedom for your rights and that's why we get to live in the great country that we live in is because we have men and girls who stand up and say I got this," she said.