Memorial Day: A Day of Remembrance

Gold Star Families

Source: Wikipedia, History.com, The Stratford Veterans Museum, VFW Post 9460 Raymond T Goldbach Post, Department of Defense

Memorial Day is an American federal holiday honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, it marks the beginning of the summer season.

Memorial Day is more than picnics and going to the beach, Memorial Day has special meaning for Gold Star families – spouses, children, parents, siblings or others who’s loved one died in service to our nation – and are a vital part of our country’s military community and history.

How did the term gold star originate? During World War I, families displayed small banners with a blue star for every immediate family member serving in the armed forces. If their service member died in service, the family replaced the blue star with a gold star. The gold star let the community know that their service member died or was killed while serving their country.

Today, the nation recognizes gold star survivors in several ways to show its deep gratitude, including:

  • Designating the last Sunday of September as Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day
  • Recognizing April 5th as Gold Star Spouses Day
  • Authorizing the Gold Star Lapel Button

According to a 2019 USO official site article, there have been more than 16,000 American troops who died in non-combat circumstances, and some 7,000 “died in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars alone” since 9/11 as well as thousands of Gold Star Families who lost loved ones in both world wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and other conflicts.

The official Army site has a page dedicated to these families, reminding the rest of the military community and their loved ones, “The Army recognizes that no one has given more for the nation than the families of the fallen.”

One of the earliest organizations to honor families who lost a son or daughter who was a member of the United States Armed Forces, is the American Gold Star Mothers, Inc. (AGSM) a private nonprofit organization of American mothers originally formed in 1928 for mothers of those lost in World War I.

Today, membership in American Gold Star Mothers is open to any woman who is a U.S. citizen or legal resident of the U.S. or its Territories or Insular Possessions at the time their child (or adopted child) was inducted into military service and whose child (or adopted child) has died or has become missing in action while in the United States Armed Forces (or died later as the result of such service).

Membership is not contingent on whether the child was killed in action or on the theater of operation or the time period of the service (which differs from distinctions made by the Department of Defense, which confers special status to service in particular periods of time and particular hostile operations). Non-adoptive stepmothers are also eligible, as is husbands and children of Gold Star Mothers.  Honorary membership is available to mothers who were not citizens or legal residents at the time their child was inducted.

Gold Star Mothers has worked on behalf of Gold Star families since 1928. Gold Star Mothers have a mission to educate, remember, and inspire.  Their mission includes education, remembrance, inspiring “true allegiance to the United States of America”, and most importantly for many, offering “needful assistance to all Gold Star Mothers and, when possible, to their descendants”.

Just as when it was founded, AGSM continues to concentrate on providing emotional support to its members, doing volunteer work with veterans in general and veterans’ hospitals in particular, and generally fostering a sense of patriotism and respect for members of the Armed Forces.

Stratford has also stepped up to honor all those in town who have served.  The Stratford Veterans Museum, located in Boothe Memorial Park, has the mission of honoring veterans from Stratford who have served our country honorably in war and in peace and to act as a repository for their stories.

The Stratford Veterans Museum is in the process of collecting information on our town’s veterans (any man or woman who served in the Armed Forces, was honorably discharged, and are (or were) residents of Stratford).  They are interviewing our town’s veterans (and their relatives) to get their stories. If you would like to schedule an interview, please email svm5952@gmail.com.

They are also interested in artifacts to add to their collection (both physical and online) to help tell our veterans stories. Photos, drawings, letters, journals are welcome. They are also selectively collecting items such as uniforms, insignia, patches, medals and other items. If you have items you would like to loan or donate, please contact us at svm5952@gmail.com or at billob46@yahoo.com.

A new Department of Defense online memorial honors service members who died while serving honorably on active duty since 1985, including peacetime deaths. Survivors may submit names for inclusion.  For further information, or to view your loved one go to: https://tribute.militaryonesource.mil/

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