SIOUX CENTER, Iowa (KCAU) – A Gold Star family is an honor no one wants but some are forced to become.

“For us, this is a very real sacrifice and we are reminded of it… every day,” Katie Moyer said.

The Gold Star is given to the immediate family of a fallen service member who died while serving in a time of conflict. It’s something the Leusink family of Sioux Center knows all too well.

“He’s missed all of this, and it’s just, it’s hard. But we go on,” Elaine Leusink said.

William B.Jay Leusink was killed in Iraq just after his 21st birthday 14 years ago. A day his wife, Miranda Leusink, remembers like it was yesterday.

“When I opened the door, there were two Marines standing beside the Navy Chaplain and they didn’t have to say anything. Obviously, I knew why they were there,” Miranda Leusink said.

“When he chose Iraq, I struggled. It was definitely a hot spot at that time,” William’s mother Elaine Leusink said. “I remember him matter-of-factly saying, ‘This is what I’m trained to do, Mom.’ He was the radio man for his squad… They were sitting in a tree waiting and knew who to go after and they’re trained to know who, that the radio man would be by the squad leader and those are your targets. They were both taken out.”

With flags at half-staff and heavy hearts, the Leusink family said Memorial Day is all about honoring and remembering the fallen.

“The hardest year I ever had was when I had my firstborn, my daughter. It hit me really hard that year that he would never know her, and she would never know him,” William’s brother Cody Leusink.

They said they hope others will take time to honor and remember those who also made the ultimate sacrifice

“For us, it’s a pain that never goes away that never will heal. It’s just a time to remember and to be very grateful that we didn’t have to sacrifice our own lives and that others did it before us.”