Gold Star Families Gather for Thanksgiving in NYC, Honoring Their Fallen Loved Ones

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The holidays can be hard for families who have lost loved ones.

One organization is making sure families of our country’s fallen military are not forgotten this Thanksgiving.

Inside a ballroom near Times Square, you’ll find the families of some of America’s bravest men and women. Their loved ones all share similar stories of heroism, but its shared loss that brings them together Thursday.

“He was a gentle warrior, it’s the best way to describe how he was and who he was.”

The 29 families all lost a husband, a wife, a mother, or father serving in the military. For many, like gold star spouse Alexa Ruiz, the grief was overwhelming. Finding the strength to attend a military gathering like this took 12 years.

“A lot of times when you deal with grief your family members and friends they can’t comprehend. They don’t come from a place where they can understand what it means to lose a soldier,” Ruiz said.

The Gary Sinise Foundation’s Snowball Express program hosts events year round for children of fallen heroes. Organizers say Thanksgiving is an especially important time to show support.

“Around the holidays it’s just difficult, they get questions, where is daddy, why isn’t he here?” Erika Gronenthal said.

This dinner isn’t just about fun or games, families say it has the power of healing, letting children bond with others who experience similar loss.

“We are like one big family now, it’s such a warm feeling. I need to let my daughter know that we aren’t the only ones in this situation,” Sharon Roderique said.

“It just brings a comfort in holidays like this.”

Families say they come as strangers, but in the end, they are all a shared family.