The Gold Star Story
What is a Gold Star Family?
Gold Star Family… a designation no one aspires to.
The Gold Star family is one that has experienced a loss of a loved one–an immediate family member – who died as the result of active-duty military service. Those who die in service to their country leave behind parents, siblings, spouses, children and extended families. These are recognized as Gold Star families. The title is meant to honor the service member’s ultimate sacrifice while acknowledging their family’s loss, grief, and continued healing.
According to a 2019 Military Times article, since 9/11, more than 16,000 troops have died in non-combat circumstances and more than 7,000 died in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars alone. There are also thousands of living Gold Star Family members who lost loved ones in both World Wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and other conflicts.
Even though the nation isn’t currently part of an all-encompassing conflict like a World War, over 1.3 million people are involved in the military today, so you may know a family that still grieves a recent fallen soldier. Understanding the sacrifice and acknowledging the holidays designated to remember are the best ways to support the families and honor the soldiers. To honor all Gold Star Families, here is a look at the history and significance of this somber designation.
The History of the Gold Star Family Designation
The term Gold Star family is a modern reference that comes from the Service Flag. These flags/banners were first flown by families during World War I. The flag included a blue star for every immediate family member serving in the armed forces of the United States, during any period of war or hostilities in which the armed forces of the United States were engaged. ” But in the event of a death, that blue star is replaced with a gold variant — the highest honor.
Signifies active- duty family member serving in the Armed Forces during periods of hostility where US is engaged.
The Blue Star turns to gold in the event of killed in action (KIA), died from wounds sustained or military training accidents.
Those who have lost loved ones to service never forget where they were when they received the news. It’s something they will carry with them forever: the day blue turned to gold.
The Gold Star allowed members of the community to know the price that the family has paid for the cause of freedom. Hence the term “Gold Star Family.” Individual military family members who lost a loved one also started to be referred to as “Gold Star Wives,” “Gold Star Mothers,” etc.
A few years later, in 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt built upon this growing movement to honor the mothers of deceased service members, and designated the last Sunday of September as National Gold Star Mother’s Day. In 1995, President Barack Obama amended “Gold Star Mother’s Day” to include families and designated it as "Gold Star Mother’s and Family Day’ which is celebrated on the last Sunday in September.
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