One of the most destructive results of war is that it creates widows and widowers.
From this terrible reality unfolds a story of courage, progress and triumph.
From Blue to Gold
During World War I, American families hung service flags with a blue star in their windows to signify they had one or more loved ones fighting in Europe.
If a family lost a son, it would pin a simple gold star over the blue star to signify the loss of its soldier, airmen, sailor or Marine.
Near the end of the war, President Woodrow Wilson approved a recommendation that acknowledged mothers who wore a gold star on an armband to commemorate the loss of their sons.
In 1936, the Senate passed Joint Resolution 115 which designated the last Sunday of September as “Gold Star Mother’s Day.”
From Mothers to Wives
Mothers lose sons, and wives lose husbands.
Near the end of World War II on April 5, 1945, one young widow invited four others to her New York City apartment for coffee.
“The women just wanted to talk,” related Marie Jordan Speer in a 2005 Washington Post article, “and they wanted the companionship of others who knew what they were going through.”
Soon after, Speer founded the Gold Star Wives of America, and along the way she received significant help from the recently widowed and former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
American society began to change for the better.
In 1947 Congress approved the design, manufacture and distribution of the Gold Star Lapel button.
The button featured a gold star on a purple background which is surrounded by laurel leaves.
Almost three decades later in 1973, Congress approved the Next of Kin Deceased Personnel button to honor service members who lose their lives while serving on active, reserve or Guard duty.
This button is a gold star on a gold background surrounded by four oak sprigs.
“Today, we are an organization of people who have suffered terrible loss but continue onward,” wrote Sandra Drew, a Gold Star wife, “and we can share our strengths when we need to share our strengths.”
Gold Star Spouses’ Day
From the first Gold Star Mother’s Day to Gold Star Wives’ Day to today’s Gold Star Spouses’ Day, the progress continues to help those who have lost a beloved service member.
This has become more apparent since the Vietnam War to the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Like men, today women serve in the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines and Navy.
Some have seen combat; some have died; and some have left husbands behind.
“April 5th is now nationally recognized as Gold Star Spouses’ Day, when the fallen are honored and their families are shown our appreciation for their sacrifices,” wrote Rochelle Hicklin, the Survivor Outreach Service Support Coordinator at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
“All spouses are courageous; they move forward; we are there for them.”