A Gold Star Wife attends the dedication for Massachusetts’ new Gold Star Families Memorial Monument in Fall River, Massachusetts, in 2016. The Gold Star Wives of America organization helped establish Gold Star Spouses’ Day, which on April 5 honors the surviving military spouses of those who have died while serving our country or from a service-connected illness or disability. (DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
By Kiani Dumagan
On April 5, we observe Gold Star Spouses’ Day to recognize the surviving military spouses of those who have died while serving our country or from a service-connected illness or disability.
The U.S. Congress recognized the first Gold Star Wives’ Day on Dec. 18, 2010. In 2011, it proclaimed April 5 as Gold Star Wives’ Day. The name of the event was changed to Gold Star Spouses’ Day in 2016 to be more inclusive.
April 5 was chosen as Gold Star Spouses’ Day to commemorate the first meeting of the Gold Star Wives of America on April 5, 1945. On that day, four young widows who had lost their husbands in World War II met in the New York City apartment of Marie Jordan for the first time. Jordan found the widows’ names in the newspaper and invited them into her home.
One week after the first Gold Star Wives meeting, President Franklin D. Roosevelt passed away, prompting first lady Eleanor Roosevelt to join and become active within the new, nonprofit organization.
The Gold Star Wives, who were originally called the “Widows of World War II,” chose their name in recognition of the Gold Star symbol.
Since World War I, the Gold Star has been recognized as a symbol of loss. In the early days of the war, service flags were displayed by families with members in the U.S. armed forces. A blue star represented each service member in the household. If their loved one died in combat, families would replace the blue star with a gold star.
In 1947, U.S. Congress approved the use of the Gold Star lapel pin as a way to recognize these families. The symbol consists of a gold star on a purple background, bordered in gold and surrounded by gold laurel leaves.
Later, in 1973, the Next of Kin Deceased Personnel lapel pin was introduced to honor those who died while serving on active duty or while assigned in a Reserve or National Guard unit in a drill status. The symbol consists of a gold star within a circle surrounded by four oak sprigs, which represent the branches of the armed forces.
The mission of the Gold Star Wives of America is to provide services and support to the widows/widowers that wear these symbols. Since its establishment, the organization has lobbied for issues concerning “compensation, educational benefits, medical care and other programs pertaining to the welfare of military survivors,” according to its website.
There are approximately 7,900 members spread over eight regions, 53 chapters and 26 states.
Besides Gold Star Wives of America, there are other programs and organizations dedicated to helping military survivors.
Army Survivor Outreach Services, established in 2008, is the official Army program designed to provide long-term support services to surviving families of fallen soldiers.
The Navy’s official program, Navy Gold Star, connects survivors to support groups/counselors and provides other services such as financial assistance. The program is inclusive, meaning all survivors are welcome regardless of their loved one’s military branch.
It is important to honor what the Gold Star represents, not only on April 5, but every day. The sacrifices made by our fallen service members and their families deserve to be widely recognized.