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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Reichley: Gold Star moms deserve their own special day

  • Tomorrow is the anniversary of an act of Congress that few people are aware is as old as it is. On June 23, 1936, Senate Joint Resolution 115 designated the last Sunday in September as Gold Star Mothers Day.
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  • Tomorrow is the anniversary of an act of Congress that few people are aware is as old as it is. On June 23, 1936, Senate Joint Resolution 115 designated the last Sunday in September as Gold Star Mothers Day. Why that date, my source did not say.
    The bill officially recognized the moms still living who lost some 53,000 soldiers, sailors, and Marines during the Great War, later named WW I.
    Someone began the unofficial tradition during our brief participation in the war to recognize families who had a son serving in the military. The idea was to hang a cloth banner in the window of homes in which families had a son serving.
    Most were plain banners about six inches by ten inches, with white inside and blue and red stripes bordering it. Sewn in the center of the white part was a blue star. The banners became known as "blue star banners" or "blue star flags." It was a way the family could let those who passed by know a son was serving.
    The blue star banner was not official so was not presented by the government. Without standardization, all sorts of designs began to crop up.
    The National WW I Museum in Kansas City has about two dozen banners, all different. Some have words on them such as Navy, Marine Corps, or Army branches such as infantry, engineers, etc.
    The museum's grouping of the banners is the most I've ever seen. Some appear to have been hand-sewn, others mass produced. And there is no standard size, although the ones on display are all about the size mentioned above.
    Having a blue star flag in the window showed that the family inside was patriotic. But when the Doughboys and Marines began getting killed, someone came up with another idea. When a family member was killed, the blue star was changed to a gold one.
    Thus began the unofficial title of "Gold Star mother." The flags re-surfaced during WW II, only there were a lot more of them. The tradition subsided during the Korean and Vietnam Wars, but was re-kindled during the First Gulf War.
    This time many were made of paper. Some were still available made of cloth, and both blue and gold stars were used again.
    Over the years and wars since WW I the meaning of the flags has expanded to include "Blue Star families," and "Gold Star families."
    Since we were in Iraq for a few years and still have troops in Afghanistan, small chapters of Gold Star mothers have been formed in cities across the nation. There is a chapter in Leavenworth with several members. The organization has been invited to participate in the upcoming Veterans Salute at the Smithville Library next month.
    Page 2 of 2 - One or two Gold Star mothers from this area will be there with literature, and they'll be glad to answer any questions a visitor might have.
    A few years after the end of WW II a set of commemorative postage stamps was issued to honor Gold Star mothers, and part of an interstate highway that passes close to Fort Campbell, Ky., is designated "Gold Star Mother Highway."
    Those who go to the Veterans Salute will be able to meet and talk with some of the Gold Star moms from this area.
    There will be many other things to see and do at the Salute, and the planners hope many will go to meet and greet veterans from several wars.
    John Reichley is a retired Army officer and retired Department of the Army civilian employee.
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