Gold Star Mother’s Day is a day to recognize and honor the mothers of service members who have died in the line of duty. Each year, there are events and meetings for Gold Star Mothers and their families.
The Gold Star has long been a symbol of a loved one lost in combat. During WWI, flags became a way for families to let others in their communities know about the status of their loved ones in the military. Blue Stars displayed on flags meant that a household had someone in the military who was deployed. Additional stars indicated additional family members.
If a family received news that their loved one had been killed in action, the star’s color was changed from blue to gold.
A Grieving Mother starts an organization
In 1928, Grace Darling took the informal practice of flag display and formalized it into a non-profit organization, American Gold Star Mothers.
After her son, George Vaughn Seibold, volunteered for military service during WWI, Grace looked for ways to help her local community of veterans. She started visiting veterans in the greater Washington area, hoping that her presence might help them. When letters from her son stopped arriving in the mail, Grace feared the worst.
George’s remains were never found. Grace quickly realized that self-contained grief would eat her alive. So, she and 25 other grieving mothers met to create a formal organization that would help them collectively deal with their grief.
American Gold Star Mothers is formed
On June 4, 1928, Grace Darling and twenty-five other mothers formed the American Gold Star Mothers non-profit organization. Six months later, the organization was incorporated under the laws of the District of Columbia. Within 90 days, the organization had almost tripled in size. Currently, the organization holds a congressional charter under Title 36-211 of the United States Code.
American Gold Star Mothers Inc. works on behalf of Gold Star families to educate the public on the unique challenges that Gold Star Mothers face. Their aim to inspire “true allegiance to the United States of America.” To advance this mission, the Gold Star Mothers hold an annual convention and have events centered around Gold Star Mother’s Day and Veteran’s Day. They also partner with Wreaths Across America to coordinate wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery and 1,200 other locations in the U.S. and abroad.
Criteria for membership
Membership into American Gold Star Mothers is open to any woman who is a U.S. citizen or legal resident who has lost a son or daughter in active service in the military, regardless of the place or time of military service and regardless of whether the circumstances of death involved hostile conflict or not. Membership is open to mothers of service members missing in action as well.
The current charter was ratified in 1984 and also includes mothers who are from U.S. territories or insular possessions. Membership is not contingent on whether the service member was killed in action or in the theater of action.
Non-adoptive stepmothers are also eligible for membership if they assume responsibility for the service member before the age of fifteen. Husbands and children of Gold Star Mothers are eligible to join as Associate Members. Honorary membership is provided to mothers who were not citizens or legal residents when their service member child was inducted.
National Gold Star Family Registry
National Gold Star Family Registry is a program that honors those who have died while defending our freedom. This non-profit is the first comprehensive database of fallen heroes that’s ever been developed. It allows family members a space to publicly remember their loved ones and serves as a historical log of those who have died in combat. Educational resources and personal accounts are also provided, which might help future generations better understand our nation’s heroes. Information for the registry is compiled from public sources, including the Department of Defense and the National Archives. Launched in 2010, the registry recognizes the need for families to be able to share the stories of their heroes with the world.