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A Christmas tree in Gov. Henry McMaster's office honors the 387 Army soldiers who have died since 2014. Provided

Outside of the Governor's Office this season, 387 lost South Carolina service members are being memorialized.

According to the Army Survivor Outreach Services, that's the number of active duty and reserve soldiers from the Palmetto State who have died by suicide, accidents or combat since 2014.

To remember their sacrifice and dedication, the organization has placed a Christmas tree with the nearly 400 symbolic gold stars on it in a place adjacent to Gov. Henry McMaster's office. 

"It's a thank-you to those who went before, to those who will come next," McMaster said during the tree-lighting ceremony Nov. 19.

This is the first year a tree honoring the Palmetto State's fallen Army soldiers has been put in the Governor's Office. It was financed by South Carolina's branch of Survivor Outreach Services, Coordinator Rochelle Tindall-Sharpe said.

The idea for the tree came from other states which have honored Gold Star families and service members with a tree, such as Massachusetts which has one on display in their statehouse every year. 

Harold Murray, head of the South Carolina Honor and Remember chapter, said each star has one of the 387 names on it.

Not all of them died in combat. An estimated 120 South Carolina veterans die by suicide every year, according to the latest data from the Department of Veterans Affairs. It averages out to about one Palmetto State service member every three days.

"Regardless of whether they made their sacrifice on the battlefield or made that sacrifice in the battle that came home with them, we honor their selfless sacrifice," Murray said. 

One of the names on the tree is Pfc. Thomas Caughman. A native of Lexington, he joined the Army Reserve in 2003. Shortly after signing up, his unit — the 81st Reserve out of Fort Jackson — was looking for volunteers to go to Baghdad. He was one of five to raise his hand. 

In 2004, Caughman was riding in armored vehicle when he was hit with an explosive device, The Associated Press reported. He was the first soldier out of the 81st Reserve to die in combat since Vietnam. In 2007, Fort Jackson renamed the reserve building after him. 

Hampton Caughman, Thomas' father, was there for the tree lighting last week. He said it was an important tribute to his son. 

"Our greatest fear is that out loved one's sacrifice will be forgotten," he said. "We appreciate everything that everyone does for us."

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Reach Thomas Novelly at 843-937-5715. Follow him @TomNovelly on Twitter. 

Thomas Novelly reports on crime, growth and development as well as military issues in Berkeley and Dorchester counties. Previously, he was a reporter at the Courier Journal in Louisville, Kentucky. He is a fan of Southern rock, bourbon and horse racing.