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Local gold star mothers’ voices are heard

Linda Jenkin Costanzo
BOSTON — Linda Jenkin Costanzo said that the memory of the Vietnam War and its flag-draped caskets has had a major impact on her.

The teacher, wife and mother visited the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. with her husband, the late Dennis Costanzo, and her sons.

“I looked at the sea of names, and I said, ‘My word. Behind every name is a mother and father,’” she said. “I walked away and nothing seemed to surface until [the year] 2000.”

A woman she met at the Theatre of Youth in the city of Buffalo told Costanzo the story of her son, who died in Vietnam. “For a moment, time totally reversed,” Costanzo said. “My eyes were opened, that minute, in 2000.” Costanzo explains this pivotal moment in full, within the prologue of her book.

With her maternal perspective, Costanzo said she wondered what happened to the women who had lost their children during wartime.

“Something in me said go find out,” she explained.

After 13 years of conducting interviews, traveling and doing research, Costanzo has published her book, “Our Sons, Our Heroes – Memories Shared by American Gold Star Mothers from the Vietnam War,” which was released on Thanksgiving Day.

A gold star mother is a woman who has lost a son or daughter in service to their country, either in a war or in a time of peace; American gold star mother is the official title given to registered mothers of American Gold Star Mothers Inc.

Costanzo became an associate member of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 77 in Tonawanda, whose members, she said, gave her leads and assistance in her effort. She called Washington D.C. and was given the name of the late Shirley Popoff, formerly of Boston, who then invited Costanzo to an American Gold Star Mother meeting in South Buffalo.

After placing an advertisement in the VVA newspaper, Costanzo began receiving the names of mothers all across the country.

“After speaking with Shirley, I knew there was something that needed to be known by the rest of the world. I knew this was a journey,” Costanzo said. “This country does not even know what a gold star mother is.”

A Lancaster native who currently lives in Clarence, Costanzo taught Spanish at Leonardo da Vinci High School in the city of Buffalo, where she retired. Her part-time job post-retirement has been working as an adjunct professor at Erie Community College, teaching beginner and intermediate Spanish. To fund her travels, while she was writing, she did home instruction, tutoring students in the city of Buffalo.

She established Sonrisa Press, her own publishing company, to release her book; she said that the nature of the stories are very intimate, and she did not want a major publishing company taking advantage of personal moments.

She said that she hopes people become aware of the cumulative sacrifice that comes with wartime, as the novel circulates.

“I would like to see the book in schools,” she said. “It’s an important lesson to children in this country; how fast you can grow up.”

Her book is now available online at barnesandnoble.com and amazon.com, the Talking Leaves...Books locations in the city of Buffalo and in other local establishments. A full list of locations is available at www.sonrisapress.com.

Costanzo will be signing books and conducting readings at the following Southtowns locations:

– Hamburg Public Library, located at 102 Buffalo St., at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 8.

– Eden Public Library, located at 2901 E. Church St., at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 26.

– Angola Public Library, located at 34 N Main St., at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, March 7.

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