When I walk my dog through my neighborhood, I can feel my heart drop to the pit of my stomach. I come across a small house that has seen better days. There’s a newer Sport Utility Vehicle parked in the driveway. It’s the customized license plate that always gets me: Gold Star Family. There but for the grace of God, go I.
The Gold Star was approved in 1918 by Woodrow Wilson as an emblem which represented a family member who was killed in combat. It was mounted on a black armband. Later on, the symbol was also used on banners which had a blue star for a deployed service member or a gold star for those who would never come home, those killed in action. During the Great Wars of the 20th Century, there wasn’t a community in the United States unfamiliar with this symbol. Luckily, because of the relatively small size of the military and its capability, most of America is unfamiliar with the Gold Star.
What does this is all mean? To be honest, I’m not sure. What should you do when you come across a Gold Star family member? From my experience with Gold Star family members, they may be willing to share their story. If I could ask one thing, it would be that every time you see a Gold Star, remember that those casualties in the newspapers and on the internet aren’t simply names that will become statistics. Those who never came home aren’t measurements to gauge the success of a war. Those men and women were, and are, much more than that. They were family.
For more information on Gold Star Mothers and other Gold Star Organizations, see the links below.