“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength. Loving someone deeply gives you courage.” - Lao Tzu
WHAT IS A GOLD STAR FAMILY?
Gold Star families – the spouses, parents, and siblings of men and women who have died while actively serving in our nation’s armed forces during a time of war—routinely display strength and courage that goes far beyond what is expected of civilians. Not because they want to, but because they must.
Hollywood has shaped much of what we know and believe about Gold Star families. Countless movies and TV shows contain scenes depicting the moment a family is informed that their loved one has died in service to his or her country.
You’ve probably seen this scene at least once in your life. There is the knock on the door, the expression on the face of the mother or wife goes from confusion to horror as she recognizes the uniformed men at the door and the significance of their visit. This is almost always followed by the graveside service where “Taps” is played while the American flag is folded and handed to the grieving widow or orphan.
Movies and TV shows rarely do more than scratch the surface of what Gold Star families experience. They do not adequately describe or explain how their experience differs from that of their civilian counterparts. Even planning a funeral becomes more complicated when one considers military ritual and tradition and the fact that the deceased service member’s body often needs to be brought home from a foreign country.
The funeral is hardly the end of the journey for Gold Star families. Once their loved ones have been laid to rest, they must come to terms with their loss and find some way to move on with their own lives.
HOW DO WE HONOR AND SUPPORT GOLD STAR FAMILIES?
The United States government and military leadership have long recognized that the heroes who sacrificed everything in defense of our country’s liberties and values leave behind family members who need support and assistance through their time of grief. They have also made a concerted effort to ensure that these families receive adequate recognition and support from the country’s civilian population.
Beginning in World War I, families who lost a service member in the war were encouraged to display a Gold Star flag in the window of their home, so that their sacrifice could be quickly and easily identified by their neighbors.
On June 23, 1936, Congress designated the last Sunday in September as Gold Star Mother’s Day, giving the country a chance to thank Gold Star Mothers for their sacrifice on an annual basis. In 2011, President Barack Obama issued a proclamation changing the name to Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day to honor Gold Star fathers, siblings, and children. (Gold Star Spouses are honored in April).
While Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day is not an officially recognized holiday, U.S. citizens are encouraged to display the flag and share their sympathy and gratitude with Gold Star families in their communities. Many organizations, including American Gold Star Mothers, Inc. (https://www.goldstarmoms.com/), host events that allow Gold Star families to meet with one another and celebrate their fallen loved ones.
HOW CAN I SUPPORT GOLD STAR MOTHERS AND FAMILIES?
In 2022, Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day falls on Sunday, September 25. This is an excellent opportunity for ordinary citizens to express their appreciation and gratitude for the sacrifices these families have made for their country. Here are three ways you can support Gold Star families.
Recognize and honor those wearing a Gold Star lapel pin.
One simple way to support Gold Star families is to recognize the significance of their service when you encounter them—especially on Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day. While you may not be personally acquainted with a member of a Gold Star family, you can easily recognize them by the Gold Star pin they wear.
Only Gold Star family members are authorized to wear this pin, as it signifies that the person wearing it has an immediate family member who gave his or her life in service to our country. Treat those wearing the Gold Star pin with dignity and respect, as this is the best way to express your gratitude to them for the sacrifice they have made.
Use Amazon Smile to Contribute to Charitable Organizations that Support Gold Star Families.
In 2013, Amazon.com the AmazonSmile (smile.amazon.com) program, a quick and easy way for shoppers to support their favorite charitable organizations. For every purchase made through AmazonSmile, the company donates 0.5% of the purchase price to the charity of the shopper’s choice.
Currently, there are over 250 charitable organizations serving Gold Star Mothers and Families that are eligible to receive donations through the AmazonSmile program. These organizations provide a wide array of services in every corner of the United States. Best of all, it adds nothing to the cost of your purchase.
Volunteer With a Local or Regional Support Organization
There are many opportunities for you to provide support to Gold Star families in your community. Spend some time researching organizations that provide services to Gold Star families in your city, state, or region, then contact them to see how you can help.
These organizations offer a variety of services that have an immediate impact on the lives of Gold Star families. These services include (but are certainly not limited to): hosting support groups and social gatherings where Gold Star families can come together, organizing fundraising events for memorials and families with specific financial needs, and lobbying local and state governments for more recognition of the service Gold Star families have done for this country.
The True North Foundation is proud to support Gold Star families as well as families of active service members by works in partnership with the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation to provide scholarships to the children of Marines who might otherwise not be able to afford an education beyond high school.
As Americans, we have a duty to show honor, respect, and gratitude to the families of fallen service members. There are many ways this can be done, ranging from simply recognizing their service, to giving financial support to organizations that serve them, to volunteering your time to those organizations.
On this Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day, consider thanking the families of your nation’s heroes in whatever way you can.
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