Catherine Sullivan wiped away tears on Friday as Steve Gooden sang "Letters: Winds of War, a Wartime Anthem," a song he wrote in honor of his two brothers who are serving in the Persian Gulf.
The song, performed at a special ceremony to dedicate a military "Wall of Honor" at the Saddleback Inn in Santa Ana, struck an emotional chord in Sullivan. Her son, Stephen, is a U.S. Marine stationed in Saudi Arabia.
A wallet-size photo of Stephen Sullivan was the first to be placed on the red, white and blue wall inside the hotel lobby--a wall that will soon be filled with photographs of military personnel from throughout Orange County. The display will remain at the hotel for the duration of the war.
The dedication of the wall and the performance of Gooden's song kicked off Community Support Day at the hotel, an occasion that also included free counseling services for military families, the opportunity to send fax messages overseas, free refreshments and an evening dinner, talent show and dance.
U.S. Rep. William E. Dannemeyer (R-Fullerton) was present for the wall dedication. He said the occasion had special significance for him since his daughter-in-law, Deborah Dannemeyer, is a Navy nurse stationed in England.
"What is going on today really shows the spirit of America," Dannemeyer said. "It's a strain for the family members who are left behind and it's important for family members and friends to come together at a time like this."
The purpose of the wall is not only to honor the troops, but also to initiate a letter-writing campaign and a support network for their families, said Barbara Ann Reyes, a hotel employee who organized the day's events.
The hotel will keep the name and address of each military person on file and anyone, with the purchase of a $2 yellow-ribbon sticker, will be given that information. But the commitment doesn't end there. The letter writer also commits to lending an occasional helping hand to the soldier's family.
"The community can serve as personal ambassadors to the families who have been left behind and let them know that they are not alone," Reyes said.
Gooden, a singer and songwriter, said he plans to release his song as a single and donate all profits to military families who are struggling financially.