Mid-Ohio Valley veterans salute Gold Star Families
VIENNA — This past weekend veteran organizations, joined by community members, have taken the time to honor their fallen brothers and sisters in arms for National Gold Star Family and Mother’s Day.
“No one wants to be a Gold Star Family,” read Jason Lowe, Senior Service Commandant for the Wood County Marine Corps.
Lowe explained the title — which is reserved for families of military members who have died in the line of duty– is meant to honor the service member’s ultimate sacrifice while acknowledging their family’s loss, grief and continued healing.
“Even though the nation isn’t currently part of a conflict as all-encompassing as World War II and only 1 percent of the U.S. population serves in the military today, versus the 12 percent that served during WWII — there are more living Gold Star Families than you might think,” he said.
Lowe said that according to a Military Times article, since 9/11, more than 16,000 troops have died in non-combat circumstances and 7,000 died in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars alone.
“There are also thousands of living Gold Star Family members who have lost loved ones in WWI, WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and other conflicts throughout the 20th and 21st centuries,” he said.
Lowe took the time to share the history behind the term “Gold Star Family”.
“The phrase “Gold Star Family” dates back to World War I, when military families displayed service flags featuring a blue star for every immediate family member serving in the Armed Forces,” he said.
The star’s color would be changed to gold if the family lost a loved one in the war, hence the term, “Gold Star Family.” Individual military family members who lost a loved one also started to be referred to as “Gold Star Wives,” “Gold Star Mothers,” etc.
“In 1928, Grace Darling, a Gold Star Mother, took this then-informal designation one step further and founded American Gold Star Mothers along with a group of 25 other grieving mothers,” he said.
The organization, which is a membership-based organization devoted to keeping the memory deceased service members alive by working to help the military community, is located in Washington, D.C., and still operates today.
“A few years later, in 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt built upon this growing movement to honor the mothers of deceased service members, and designated the last Sunday of September as National Gold Star Mother’s Day,” he said.
Fellow member of the Wood County Marine Corps. Mike McLain explained that the local monuments are called “Gold Star Family” monuments, because everyone in the family is effected, not just the mothers.
“They used to be ‘Gold Star Mothers’ monuments, until Hershel Woody Williams, who was instrumental in the monuments being built locally was giving a speech and following the event a father approached him and said ‘fathers’ cry too’,” said McLain.
McLain said they agreed and decided the monuments should pay tribute to all in the family who have sacrificed one or more of their loved ones in the armed forces of the United States for freedom.
Over in Marietta, an Honor & Remembrance Gold Star Ceremony was held at their Gold Star Memorial Park.
Jared Smith, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Washington County Veterans Service Commissioner addressed the community.
“Today is National Gold Star Mother’s and Family Day. May we properly honor our beloved Gold Star Service Members’, and their sacrifice that they have made to ensure the United States of America remains free today,” he said, opening the ceremony.
“It is said, that man is not dead until he is forgotten. Today we do our part to ensure that we never forget.”
Seven wreaths were laid, one to represent each of the following service organizations: American Legion post 64; Disabled American Veterans chapter 52; AMVET (American Veterans) Post 1788; Military Order of the Purple Hearts Chapter 743; Marine Corps League Bill O’Malley Detachment 1436; Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5108 and the Mid-Ohio Valley Platoon of Marine Corps. Veteran Association.
During the ceremony, Gary Ward spoke a few words of thanks for the gathered veterans and community members at the event. The Ward/Perry family lost their son Specialist Christian Ward in 2019.
Christian Ward enlisted into the United States Army on July 21, 2015, in Charlotte, North Carolina. He completed Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina and Advanced Individual Training for the 15T UH-60 Blackhawk Mechanic Course at Fort Eustis, Virginia. His duty assignments include UH-60M Crew Chief and ALSE Technician with Charlie Company and 2-4th General Support Aviation Battalion located in Fort Carson, Colorado with whom he deployed once to Romania and Bulgaria while assigned to Task Force Comanche in support of Atlantic Resolve.
Madeline Scarborough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org