A Legislative Column by Assemblyman Will Barclay
During World War I, American women wore a black arm band that featured a blue star around their left arm to show they had family serving their country.
As the war progressed and, sadly, more and more soldiers died in combat, families sought to show their personal loss and display of patriotism by covering the blue star with a gold star.
In time, the gold star came to signify the ultimate price that had been paid for freedom.
In 1918, the gold star was adopted by President Woodrow Wilson as a national symbol to represent the families’ loss of a service member during a time of war.
The gold star soon became more than a symbol.
It became an insignia for Gold Star Mothers’ groups which had begun to form.
The first Gold Star Mothers’ group was started by Grace Seibold who lost her son in combat during World War I.
She believed the mothers who were experiencing the grief that comes with losing a son or daughter in combat should support each other and work together.
Together, they chose to care for hospitalized veterans, particularly those in government hospitals who were far away from home.
She found many mothers in the same situation were willing to join in this cause.
The Gold Star Mothers also promoted peace and patriotism and worked to honor those who died in war.
Some members believed they could better advocate for veterans and families if they formed a national organization.
On June 4, 1928, a group of 25 mothers met in Washington, D.C., to form the national organization of the American Gold Star Mothers.
Many local groups that had already formed chose to affiliate with the national organization and band together for common causes.
In 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared that the last Sunday in September would be Gold Star Mother’s Day to encourage “a public expression of the love, sorrow, and reverence of the people of the United States for the American Gold Star Mothers.”
As time passed, the public began to recognize it was not just mothers but parents who lost their children and the term changed to Gold Star parents and more recently, Gold Star families.
On Memorial Day our country also pauses to recognize the ultimate sacrifice Gold Star families have made.
Service flags with a red border, white center, and gold star(s) in the middle are displayed at local ceremonies to indicate the unparalleled loss.
Every local community has experienced this loss.
The flags signify the supreme sacrifice made and help the community to understand the personal loss, the price for freedom, and the pride that families have for their soldiers who gave their lives for our country.
While absolutely nothing can replace a son or daughter, we owe Gold Star families a lifetime of gratitude for their child’s sacrifice in defense of freedom and liberty.
During this Memorial Day holiday, let us remember and reflect on all of those who served our great country and especially those who paid the ultimate price.
Let us also be mindful of our Gold Star families, both past and present, who have experienced great loss and sacrifice for our country’s freedoms.
If you have comments regarding these or other state issues, please contact me.
My office can be reached by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by email at [email protected], or by calling (315) 598-5185.
You also can find me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.