Col. Kenneth Kmetz

Col. Kenneth Kmetz, the vice commander of the 179th Airlift Wing of the Ohio Air National Guard unit based in Mansfield, addresses the crowd during Saturday's Honor and Remembrance Gold Star Ceremony in front of the Richland County Courthouse.

MANSFIELD — It was a time of remembrance, mourning and celebration.

About 50 people gathered in front of the Richland County Courthouse on Saturday evening for the Honor and Remembrance Gold Star Ceremony, paying tribute to the families of service members who made the ultimate sacrifice.

The event opened with the playing of the national anthem and concluded with a candlelight vigil. It included a powerful message from Col. Kenneth Kmetz, vice commander of the 179th Airlift Wing of the Ohio Air National Guard unit based in Mansfield and Saturday’s keynote speaker.

“No one wants to be a Gold Star Family. No one wants to lose a family member in the line of duty,” Kmetz said. “And no one wants to receive the knock on the door by two officers in uniform who will bear the news no one wants to hear.”

Saturday’s event took place near the Mansfield Gold Star Families Memorial Monument, which was dedicated last November. The ceremony included comments from Michelle White of Survivor Outreach Services.

“Service members leave a legacy, a legacy in the hearts of those who love and grieve for them today,” White said. “Today we say their names to honor. We say their names to never forget.”

Saturday’s ceremony included a laying of a wreath at the monument, a three-volley salute and the playing of Taps.

After that, those in attendance held a candlelight vigil for the fallen.

“This is the first one, but hopefully it becomes an annual service,” said Jared Smith, chairman of the Mansfield Ohio Gold Star Families Memorial Monument Committee. “We want to educate and at the same time help our Gold Star Families."

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I have covered high school sports in Richland County since 2000. Email him at curt@richlandsource.com or follow him on Twitter: Follow @curtjconrad on twitter.