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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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November 11th, 2013
05:32 PM ET

Gold Star kids: Remembering the children of the fallen

(CNN) - Nearly 5,000 boys and girls will not have a mom or dad to tuck them into bed tonight. The military estimates that's how many American children have lost a parent in combat, to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The children of the fallen are known as Gold Star children.

Cierra Becker was just seven years old when the knock on her door came.

"There's a Gold Star medal in the military, and daddy was awarded that medal after he passed away," Cierra says.

Cierra's father, Staff Sargent Shane Becker, was killed in Iraq in April 2007.

The documentary "Gold Star Children," airing on the Pentagon Channel Monday night, traces the story of Cierra and her family.

"I almost felt like the world was pressing down on me to make a decision sometimes, to make a decision to completely change my personality and gloss over what happened, or whether I just act like daddy's there everyday," she says in the film.

Now 14 years old, Cierra is hoping the film and her story will help other Gold Star children continue to heal.

"When I say something to a kid who has just lost their loved one, is that, 'Yes everything will be okay, and you'll be okay too,'" Cierra said. "You'll laugh again, and you won'g feel guilty for laughing, or having fun without the person that you lost."

The film pays special attention to another group of Gold Star children – those who lost a parent in the Vietnam War.

"You knew not to ask your parent about the death of your father, because it might upset her, and you didn't want to do that," said director Mitty Griffis Mirrer, who was born just hours after her father was killed in action in Vietnam.

"For my generation, there was an estimated 20,000 American children who lost a parent in the Vietnam War," Mirrer told CNN. "Virtually the 20,000 children or so were ignored, and that was because of the circumstance of the country."

Mirrer produced and directed the documentary. She volunteers as a mentor for other Gold Star children and hopes things will be different for them.

"Newly bereaved military children need to find support with each other, and be able to talk about that loss together," said Mirrer.

Today, Gold Star children like Cierra have many more options for support from groups like T.A.P.S, which helps grieving military families.

On this day, as Americans pause to honor the veterans, Cierra wants us to remember her dad, too.

"I just want them to know about my dad, and about all dads, is that they're all special, and they all mean something, and they will never be forgotten," Cierra said.

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