There’s a not-so-secret club for women that no one wants to be a part of, but many are. Members wear a small pin on their lapel, a purple circle with a small gold star. They don’t often make the news, and you probably don’t think of them much on a day-to-day basis. But they are out there, with numbers growing every day, living out a sacrifice made by someone they loved.
These are members of the Gold Star Wives club and they have lost their spouse in military service, or as the result of service-related disabilities. In 2013, the U.S. Senate designated April 5 as Gold Wives Day in recognition of the sacrifices made by these spouses and their family members.
This day is also the anniversary of the first Gold Star Wives meeting, when four young widows met in Marie Jordan’s apartment on West 20th Street in New York City. One week later, President and Commander-in-Chief Franklin D. Roosevelt died, and his widow, Eleanor Roosevelt, soon joined and became very active in the organization.
During WWII, there was a tradition of families of servicemen hanging a service flag in the window of their home. The flag featured a small start for each member of the family in the military; blue for living servicemen and gold for those who had lost their lives. In 1947, Congress built upon this symbolism, and created the gold star lapel pins to be given by the Department of Defense to spouses and family members of service members killed in combat.
Today the Gold Star Wives Club not only offers support to each other – through experiences only other military widows and widowers can relate – but also is an active force in legislation and government. Its members appear before various House and Senate Committees on issues concerning compensation, educational benefits, medical care, and other programs pertaining to the welfare of military survivors. For the last 70 years, the group also has held an annual convention in cities throughout the United States.
When a military spouse becomes a widow – or a widower – they experience a wide range or emotions and changes rapidly. Not only do they have to deal with the death of their loved one, but they may also have to move out of military housing, find a job, and basically start a whole new life. Many have young children, and suddenly every plan for the future is changed. Connecting with others who have walked the same path and can understand the full range of emotions – the good, the bad, and the ugly – can be a lifeline in the hardest times.
So in honor of Gold Star Wives Day, what can you do to help or honor widows and widowers of America’s armed forces?
- If you know a military widow, why not send them a card, write them an email, or leave them a voicemail to let them know you are thinking of them and remembering their spouse on this day.
- If you are close friends, offer to help him or her by watching their children for a few hours, giving them a chance to have a break from regular life to spend as they choose. They may want to relax or spend some time remembering their loved one at their grave site.
- Volunteer at your local VA hospital. There are many activities volunteers can help with, and serving injured veterans is a practical way to honor those who have passed on. There are also often local group homes that work with the VA hospitals that house families while a veteran is in care. These homes can often use help with meals, childcare, and even simple chores.
- Donate to support the Gold Star Wives. There are numerous options for donations, and you can choose if you’d like your money to go to your regional group, into a general fund, to support the Government Relations Committee, and more.
- Visit your local cemetery and leave a remembrance on the headstones of the military servicemen and women laid to rest there. You can make a simple wreath or place a flag in front of military headstones as a silent but meaningful gesture for family members who may soon visit the grave.
We at VeteranAid.org would like to offer our gratitude to the families of fallen servicemen who continue to live out the sacrifice made by their loved one in defense of our country. We thank you and your loved one for your service to our nation.