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Gold Star Mothers: A History of Service and Sacrifice

A monument honoring the mothers who have lost children to war. Credit: Today In History.

The meaning of each Gold Star on each Gold Star Service Flag has significant meaning to each Gold Star Mother – a son or daughter has been lost while serving in the military of this country.

The last Sunday in September is National Gold Star Mother’s Day, a day to recognize and honor those Mothers.


It Began with The Blue Star Flag

Shortly after this country’s entry into the First World War, Robert L. Queisser, a businessman in Cleveland, Ohio and a captain in the National Guard, designed and patented the Blue Star Flag.

In an article that appeared in The Plain Dealer, (April 17, 2017) Queisser created the banner in 1917 to occupy himself while recuperating from an automobile accident and to help keep his wife from worrying about their two sons serving in Europe.

His design featured a blue star – representing hope and pride – on a field of white surrounded by a red border.

The idea caught on with the public, and many of the first flags were handmade and then hung in windows by mothers to signify they had sons serving overseas.

On September 24, 1917 an unnamed Ohio congressman read the following into the Congressional Record:

“The Mayor of Cleveland, the Chamber of Commerce and the Governor of Ohio have adopted this service flag. The world should know of those who give so much for liberty. The dearest thing in all the world to a father and mother are their children.”

As casualties mounted, the Women’s Committee of the Council of National Defenses suggested that instead of wearing black mourning clothes, mothers should wear a black band bearing a gold gilt star on their left arms.


A President, A Gold Star and A Mother

In acting on the suggestion, President Woodrow Wilson referred to these women as “gold star mothers.”  Not long thereafter, some mothers wearing the armbands began stitching a gold star – a symbol of sacrifice – over the blue star on their Blue Star Flags.

One of those women was Grace Darling Seibold, who received word on Christmas Eve, 1918 that her son, Lt. George Seibold, had been killed in action.

After stitching a gold star over her blue star, she began to organize a group consisting of other mothers whose sons had died.

The Gold Star, which hung in the windows of a deceased servicemen’s home, became the symbol for the name of this organization.

On June 24, 1928 twenty-five mothers met in Washington DC to receive a federal charter from Congress recognizing the American Gold Star Mothers, Inc.

Almost eight years on June 23, 1936, the 74th Congress published Public Resolution 123 designating the last Sunday of September as Gold Star Mother’s Day.

Credit: Frank K. Root.

Gold Star Mothers Move Forward

During the Second World War, the displaying of the Blue and Gold Star Service Flags become more widespread. 

One of the most famous of these would be the banner consisting of five Gold Stars – one for each of the Sullivan brothers who were killed on November 13, 1942 when the USS Juneau was sunk.

Service flags were displayed during the Korean and Vietnam Wars, but not as widely as before.

In the wake of 9/11, however, the American Legion raised awareness about the Blue and Gold Star Flags, and this resulted in a great awareness about Gold Star Mothers.

As President Barack proclaimed on September 24, 2010:

In a long line of heroes stretching from the greens of Lexington and Concord to the mountains of Afghanistan, selfless patriots have defended our lives and liberties with valor and honor.  They have been ordinary Americans who loved their country so profoundly that they were willing to give their lives to keep it safe and free. As we pay tribute to the valiant men and women in uniform lost in battle, we also recognize the deep loss and great strength of those who share in that ultimate sacrifice:  America’s Gold Star Mothers and Families.


How to Remember Gold Star Mothers

Today honors the mothers of the sons and daughters who have given their lives in the line of duty.

While flying the flag or attending a service or ceremony in honor of Gold Star Mothers is right and needed, there is another way to honor them.

Tell them that they are honored; they know more about the cost of a war than most.

To learn more about the Gold Star Mother’s Chapters in your state, click here.

For more, read about the Gold Star Mom who started the Permission To Start Dreaming (PTSD) Foundation after her son’s tragic death.


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