Emogene Cupp, Gold Star Mother, celebrates 99th birthday

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Emogene Cupp is a Gold Star Mother who lost her only son, U.S. Army Cpl. Robert Cupp, on June 6, 1968 when he stepped on a land mine in the Quang Tin Province of Vietnam. He was laid to rest on his 21st birthday. His name is inscribed on Panel 60W, Line 27 of The Wall.

Emogene has spent most of her life honoring his memory.

Emogene is currently the oldest surviving past National President of American Gold Star Mothers. She turns 99 years old on January 20.

She has honored the fallen through service throughout her life and was vital in helping get The Wall built.

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Emogene Cupp, left, places he hand over her heart during the Pledge of Allegiance at the Veterans Day Observance at The Wall, 2013.

Early in his efforts to build a national memorial to Vietnam veterans, Jan Scruggs called upon Emogene for support. At the time, she was National President of the American Gold Star Mothers. According to VVMF’s history of The Wall, Emogene liked the idea and volunteered to help.

She recalled the country’s poor treatment of its Vietnam veterans and expressed how that pain extended to the families. “It was very hurtful,” she recalled. “They treated the moms the same as they treated the vets. They weren’t nice. At that time, they just ignored you and wished you would go away. Or, people would tell me, ‘Well why did you let him go?’ Of course, what choice do you have?”

Emogene was instrumental in communicating her personal connection to the effort. She attended many meetings on Capitol Hill and appeared before Congress as they drummed up support to pass a bill to begin construction.

One approvals and construction permits were in place, she was present for the unveiling of the first panel in 1982 and has since been a devoted attendee at the Veterans Day and Memorial Day ceremonies at The Wall.

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The unveiling of the first panel of The Wall, 1982.

Over the years, Emogene had also formed a strong friendship with one of Robert’s childhood friends, Steve Davenport.

A Vietnam-era veteran himself, Steve “sent roses to Bob’s funeral, remembering the pact the two made: that whoever died first, the other would send roses.” And years after Robert was killed, Steve gave Emogene the last letter he wrote to him, along with a collection of poems.

“I always thought Bob would want me to be there for his mother,” Steve said.

Their friendship ensued until Steve passed away in 2018.

In 1990, Steve bought a Softail Custom Harley and a decade later turned it into a tribute to the mothers who lost sons in Vietnam. The names painted on the bike honored 75 fallen service members, one of whom is Robert Cupp. Not long after it was built, Emogene contacted VVMF and said that the Gold Star Mothers had decided to donate the bike to the nonprofit organization. Now coined “The Gold Star Bike,” it travels with The Wall That Heals and is seen by thousands throughout the country.

Emogene has made it her duty to remember Robert and her unwavering commitment has inspired many around her. In August of 2002 she even made a trip back to Vietnam to visit the place he died.

Emogene’s granddaughter Sherry once said that both Robert and Emogene served their country. “He in death and she in life.”

Emogene has spent her life giving back “by supporting the American Gold Star mothers, veteran’s organizations, and the healing of our nation through the vision, support and completion of ‘The Wall.’”

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