You many have never heard of a Gold Star Mother or a Gold Star Family, but they have borne a pain whose depth most of us will never know. Gold Star Families are those who have lost a family member during the course of service to our country.
36 US Code Section 111 designates the last Sunday in September as Gold Star Mother’s Day. This year, Sunday, September 29, will be the day to honor these mothers and other family members of servicemen and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
How did the concept of a Gold Star Mother or Family come to pass? During World War I, it became a customary for families with members serving in the military to display a service flag in the window of their home. The service flag was first designed by Robert L. Queisser. Captain Queisser, a member of the United States Army, developed the flag to honor his two sons who were both serving overseas. Within months it had become a nationwide symbol that honored not only those who served, but those who anxiously awaited their return as well. The flag that Captain Queisser developed had blue stars. One star was placed on a white background with a red border for each family member who was serving in the military. In 1918, the Women’s Committee of National Defenses proposed to Woodrow Wilson that mothers of military personnel who died in the war should not wear the customary black clothes of mourning. Instead, they should wear a black armband with one gold star on it for each family member who had been lost. President Wilson agreed and actually referred to these women as “Gold Star Mothers.” Grace Darline Seibold held the first meeting of the American Gold Star Mothers with several dozen other women on June 4, 1928. Mrs. Seibold came up with the idea of the organization as a means to honor her own son’s death in the war, to provide support for other mothers who had lost their children, and to comfort wounded veterans while they received treatment in governmental facilities. The group was incorporated in 1929, and in 1936 the following Presidential Proclamation was issued:
“Whereas the service rendered the United States by the American mother is the greatest source of the Country’s strength and inspiration; and “Whereas we honor ourselves and the mothers of America when we revere and give emphasis to the home as the fountainhead of the State; and
“Whereas the American mother is doing so much for the home and for the moral and spiritual uplift of the people of the United States and hence so much for good government and humanity; and
“Whereas the American Gold Star Mothers suffered the supreme sacrifice of motherhood in the loss of their sons and daughters in World Wars”
and Whereas the said Public Resolution 12 provides:
“That the President of the United States is hereby authorized and requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the Government officials to display the United States flag on all Government buildings, and the people of the United States to display the flag and to hold appropriate meetings in their homes, churches, or other suitable places, on the last Sunday in September, as public expression of the love, sorrow and reverence of the people of the United States for the American Gold Star Mothers.”
“Sec. 2. That the last Sunday in September shall hereafter be designated and known as “Gold Star Mother’s Day,” and it shall be the duty of the President to request its observance as provided for in this resolution.”
There are other groups and organizations dedicated to the support of Gold Star Families. The Gold Star Luminary Initiative urges individuals, groups, and communities to light luminaries on Gold Star Mother and Family Day each year. http://www.goldstarluminary.com/ . The National Gold Star Family Registry can be found at: http://www.goldstarfamilyregistry.com/
There are also support organizations for families of those who were injured during their time of service or currently serve in the United States Military. The Silver Star Families of America (http://silverstarfamilies.org/) “is dedicated to supporting and assisting wounded, ill, injured and dying active duty and Veterans and their families of ALL Branches of Service from ALL Wars.” Blue Star Mothers of America (www.bluestarmothers.org) offer support for families of both active duty personnel and veterans themselves as well.
Please take a moment today to thank not only those who serve, and have served, in our military, but to thank their family members as well. The stress and anxiety family members undergo during the time of their love one’s deployment is unfathomable. The physical, mental, and emotional changes that sometimes accompany military service are life changing for family members as well. Those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service of their country leave behind parents, spouses, siblings, and children. It is those family members whose continued sacrifice we should not forget and continue to honor. On Sunday, please thank a Gold Star Family member. The sacrifice that these families have made so that we all might live freely in an exceptional nation truly embodies What IS Right With America!
Susan C. Rempel, Ph.D.