Gold Star Mother’s and Family Day falls on September 26 this year and is traditionally observed on the last Sunday in September. The day is for honoring families of those who have received The Gold Star – the military award no one wants. The award commemorates the tragic death of a military member who has perished while in the line of duty and hopes to provide a level of comfort to the parents and families that are left behind. Since World War 1, a “Gold Star Family” has signified a family that has lost one of its members in combat. The family can display a Gold Star Service Flag for any military family members who have died from any honorable cause – each gold star on the flag signifies a death. Though today only around 1% of the country is involved in military service, as compared to the 12% during other times of war, like World War 2, there are still a significant number of surviving Gold Star families – not to mention, a Gold Star lives on in a family’s legacy.
HISTORY OF GOLD STAR MOTHER’S AND FAMILY DAY
Though the exact roots of the tradition aren’t totally known, it was during World War 1 that the gold star came to symbolize that a family member had fallen in battle. Around that time, the term “Gold Star Family” came to mean that you were a surviving family of a person who died in service and families hung banners with a gold star outside their homes. The tradition has since been authorized and seeks to ease the grief of mothers and families while reminding that no one truly serves alone.
Gradually, there came to be many ways for grieving family members to honor their loved ones with symbols worn or places outside the home. In 1918, President Wilson allowed grieving military mothers to wear a traditional black armband featuring a gold star. Soon after, it was approved for families to cover the blue star on the service flag outside of their home with a gold one. As of 1947, Gold Star family members can also display the Gold Star Lapel.
The American Gold Star Mothers Inc. first got its start in 1917, when Grace Siebold’s son was killed during World War 1. Wanting to create a support system for grieving mothers in similar circumstances, Grace gathered what would become the American Gold Star Mothers to grieve together and tend to hospitalized veterans in local hospitals. The organization was formalized as a non-profit in 1928, with a mission of remembrance, education, and patriotism. Still today, they support Gold Star mothers in their grief, hold an annual conference, and organize events with supporting groups.
Though Gold Star Mother’s and Family Day isn’t observed as a National, federal holiday like Memorial Day, it was declared by Congress in 1936 to be the last Sunday in September – though, at the time, it was only known as “Gold Star Mother’s Day.” It was in 2011 that President Obama amended the declaration, declaring the day to include families as well as mothers. Today, the holiday includes any immediate family member and authorizes that person to display the Gold Star Service Flag.
Today, America is not embroiled in any kind of conflict like World War 1 or 2, and far fewer individuals consider Gold Star heroes and their families – oftentimes, people may think that they don’t know anyone in a Gold Star Family. However, there are many more Gold Star families from previous wars than you may think, and since over 1.3 million people are involved in the military today, it’s possible you know a family that still grieves a recent fallen soldier. Understanding the sacrifice and acknowledging the holiday are the best ways to support the families and honor the soldiers.
GOLD STAR MOTHER’S AND FAMILY DAY TIMELINE
1918 Armbands Authorized
President Wilson authorized mothers who had lost a child in the war to wear a traditional black mourning armband featuring a gold star.
1929 American Gold Star Mothers
Started in Washington, DC, The American Gold Star Mothers Inc. quickly spread across the country. In 1929, the organization obtained a federal charter to support mothers who were often separated from their ailing or dead children.
June 23, 1936 Gold Star Mother’s Day Recognized
Since this date, Gold Star Mother’s Day has always fallen on the last Sunday of September.
1947 Gold Star Lapel
The Gold Star Service Lapel, in addition to the Gold Star Service Flag, is authorized to be displayed by surviving family members.September 23, 2011.
President Obama amended “Gold Star Mother’s Day” to include families as “Gold Star Mother’s and Family Day” on September 23, 2011.