No military family wants to learn they have been moved to the ranks of Gold Star Family. Sadly, too many loved ones have joined these ranks over the years. What is a Gold Star Family?
Gold Star Families
A Gold Star Family is one who had a loved one die while serving in America’s military. Americans honor the sacrifice of not only the deceased service member but those they left behind. They want to show the family they recognize the loss of this loved one, the grief the family is experiencing, and the healing process that remains ongoing. During the upcoming Sturgis Motorcycle Rally to be held in August, the Sturgis SD Gold Star Families Memorial dedication ceremonies will take place, and people may learn more about this rally and events taking place during the festivities by visiting cleanharleys.com/blog.
While America today isn’t in an armed conflict much like it was during World War II, the loss of any service member hurts the hearts of all Americans. Today, only one percent of Americans enlist, which is a much lower number than seen in many past conflicts. However, Americans remain surrounded by Gold Star families and often don’t realize this.
Military Times reports America has lost over 16,000 citizens in non-combat military service since 9/11 with 7,000 losing their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts. They join the ranks of Gold Star Families who has loved ones perish in previous wars, including World War II and other wars. What should every person know about the Gold Star Family Designation?
The History of Gold Star Families
During World War I, families with a loved one serving in the war would display a service flag. Each blue star on the flag represented an immediate family member in the military. If a loved one lost their life during this conflict, the blue star would be replaced with a gold one. This led to the term, “Gold Star Family.” Each family member would also be labeled a Gold Star mother, father, sibling, or spouse.
Grace Darling lost a child in the war. In 1928, she chose to found American Gold Star Mothers with 25 other moms who also lost children. This organization remains in operation today. The mothers come together to keep the memory of those who lost their lives in service alive. President Franklin D. Roosevelt decided to honor these moms and their efforts in 1936. He did so by establishing National Gold Star Mother’s Day, which takes place on the last Sunday of September.
The Movement Grows
World War I was the first of many armed conflicts America took part in over the years. This led to a rise in Gold Star Family members and organizations dedicated to honoring their sacrifices. The Gold Star Wives of America organization was found in 1945, followed two years later by the creation of the Gold Star Lapel Pin, a pin issued by the Department of Defense.
Immediate family members of the deceased receive this pin, which consists of a star sitting on a purple circular background. Service members often died while serving but not in combat. These individuals deserve recognition as well, which led to the Department of Defense creating the Next of Kin Deceased Personnel Lapel Pin in 1973. Spouses, children, and parents of the deceased may receive these pins.
Honoring Gold Star Families
The USO serves as one organization that honors families who made the ultimate sacrifice. The organization runs the Support for the Families of the Fallen program, a program in place since March 1991 to support dignified transfers at Dover Air Force. In addition, they partner with Fisher House and other organizations to help these families. Fisher House provides lodging for families when a loved one who is serving in the military is in the hospital receiving care.
Memorial Day offers another way for Americans to honor those who have served and lost their lives while doing so. Sadly, many people now associate this holiday with an extra day off from work. They see it as a great time to cook outdoors or take advantage of sales. Families may wish to visit a local cemetery to see the graves of those who served and place a wreath, flag, or flowers on these graves. Another great way to honor these individuals is to read their stories or watch movies that show how they protected the freedoms Americans have come to cherish.
Local communities might choose to remember these individuals and honor them by building a Gold Star Family Memorial Monument. The Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation, a non-profit organization, builds these memorials so communities can remember and recognize the Gold Star Families they call neighbors. During the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in 2021, the Sturgis SD Gold Star Family Memorial Monument dedication ceremonies will be held.
The Sturgis Memorial
In 2020, the Sturgis City Council approved the monument, which will sit at Main Street and Harley-Davidson Way to honor Gold Star Families living in the area. This monument will join 59 monuments already in place, with 65 more memorials in progress. However, this stands as the first in South Dakota.
The double-sided black granite memorial comes with the words “Gold Star Families Memorial Monument, a Tribute to Gold Star Families and Relatives who sacrificed a Loved One for our Freedom,” on one side. On the other side, viewers see four panels titled Homeland, Family, Patriot, and Sacrifice, and these panels tell the story of those service members who have lost their lives while serving. The monument, however, will not display individual names. A soldier’s silhouette serves as the centerpiece of the tribute.
The dedication ceremony serves as only one event being held during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Other events include a beard and mustache contest, the Extreem Flat Track event, the Tuesday Tattoo Contest, and the Medicine Wheel Ride. Individuals who choose to take part in the rally will find plenty to see and do during their time in Sturgis. Be sure to check out everything this festival has to offer, as a person doesn’t want to miss out on an activity they will love and remember for years to come. This is one gathering no motorcyclist wants to miss.