In Benicia, the gold star in an apartment window has faded, a bit, during the past three years, unlike the love of a mother who still mourns her lost son.
"I see his picture every morning and every night when I go to bed. He is still with me," said gold star mother Shamma Shumney.
Shamma Shumney still remembers vividly the morning in 2004 when marines knocked on her front door and gave her the news that 29-year-old Dustin, a Marine first lieutenant, had died with 27 others in a helicopter crash.
"It was cutting right into your heart. Just devastating," said Shumney.
Now, three and a half years later, we reach 4,000. Across this nation, it's almost become an unofficial Memorial Day.
In Mountain View, another gold star mother, Karen Meredith remembers 26-year-old son, ken.
He should have been on his way home in April 2004, but the army extended his stay, and he died in a machine gun accident from his own tank.
"We knew this number was coming," said gold star mother Karen Meredith.
"These people enlisted. They believed in something," said Shumney.
Whatever a person's politics, 4,000 is a milestone. Four-thousand times all the families and friends left behind. All those people with grief in common.
"It's horrible that we have to get to four-thousand to open up people eyes," said Shumney.
"So regardless of your politics and if you ask any gold star family member they'll tell you, please don't forget my loved one," said Meredith.
"They're not numbers. They're people," said Shumney.