April 5, 2014: Today Is Gold Star Wives Day

An act of Congress established the Gold Star Lapel Pin (left), for issue to immediate family members of service members killed in combat. The Next of Kin Pin (right) signifies a service-related. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army.

An act of Congress established the Gold Star Lapel Pin (left), for issue to immediate family members of service members killed in combat. The Next of Kin Pin (right) signifies a service-related. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army.

By William Bradner – U.S. Army Installation Management Command

“It’s heartbreaking to think of someone asking ‘what a beautiful pin, where can I get one?'” said Gold Star Wife Donna Engeman.

“We need to ensure the nation — the world — recognizes what that pin really signifies,” she continued.

April 5, 2014, has been designated by Congress as “Gold Star Wives Day.” The intent is to publicly recognize the sacrifices made by our service members in support of our nation.

Though the official designation of the Gold Star Wives Day is relatively new, the gold star has officially been recognized as a symbol of loss since 1918.

Throughout the First World War, families would hang blue service stars in their windows to indicate that their loved ones were serving in the war effort. By 1918, it became common practice to pin a gold star over the blue star to indicate that their service member had died. President Wilson also authorized mothers to wear a gold star on the traditional black mourning band to signify their loss was war-related in 1918.

During the Second World War, service flags and what they represented were standardized and codified by Congress. In April of 1945, a non-profit group calling themselves “Gold Star Wives of America” filed incorporation paperwork signed by Eleanor Roosevelt. Less than two years later Congress approved the design, manufacture and distribution of the Gold Star Label Pin to be presented to surviving family members of those who died in that conflict.GoldStarWives_14-Digitalv2

Though service flags and Gold Star pins fell out of favor in the sixties, in 1973 the Army approved a lapel pin to be worn by those who lost their lives while serving on active duty but not in combat operations.

The rise of patriotism and pride in service after September 11 brought about a resurgence of the use of both the blue and gold stars in flags, bumper and window stickers and lapel pins.

But it’s not enough, said Engeman, who manages the Survivor Outreach Services program for the Army.

During World War II, more than 16 million people served in the war effort overseas, and most of the country supported the war effort through rationing, victory gardens, war bonds, and other public displays of support.

Only 2.5 million service members have deployed during the war on terror; less that 1 percent of the American population. While service flags can be readily found in windows in the residential areas on military installations, it’s rare to see them in mainstream America.

To help raise awareness, the Army has produced a series of public service announcements describing the significance of Gold Star pins. The PSAs will be released over the course of the year, to expand awareness efforts beyond a single day proclaimed by Congress.goldstar_poster

The Army, recognizing that families who have paid the ultimate sacrifice deserve our respect, gratitude and the very best we can provide, created Survivor Outreach Services to provide long-term support services and family case management for surviving families. A program in the G9, Family and MWR Services Directorate of the Installation Management Command, SOS is integral to the Army’s support system and casualty notification office.

“Our support service coordinators and financial counselors are dedicated to helping survivors from all eras understand–and apply for–the benefits they’re entitled to” said Hal Snyder, chief of IMCOM’s Wounded and Fallen Support Services Office. “We also help them stay connected to the Army family for as long as they desire.”

SOS currently supports more than 55,900 surviving military family members, and is spearheading the effort to raise awareness through the PSAs.

“We’re committed to our survivors,” said Lt. Gen. Mike Ferriter, IMCOM commander. “So educating the public on the meaning behind the gold star pins is simply another way to reaffirm that we honor and understand the sacrifices they’ve made for our country.”

This article is courtesy of the Gold Star Pins.org – a U.S. Army website.


6 Tips for Dealing with Media When a Love One Dies in War

Pfc Brandon Lucas Buttry, Jan. 10, 1993 – Nov. 5, 2012. Photo courtesy of Steve Buttry’s blog.

One of the blogs I follow – The Buttry Diary – is written by Steve Buttry, a digital journalist and trainer. Most recently, Steve took on the role as family liaison for the media when his nephew, Brandon Buttry, was killed in Afghanistan earlier in November.

Steve did it out of love and because as a journalist he felt it was one thing he could do to help the family. His experience led to these tips from his website and blog posting for relatives of the fallen, news media and military public affairs officers.

Here are a few of his tips:

  1. Designate a relative/spokesperson to deal with the media – I have written about soldiers killed in war and other sudden newsworthy deaths and I know that, however sensitive journalists try to be, we are an intrusion. But many families also want to tell the story of the person they have lost. I realized right away that I could help my family by playing this role.
  2. Initiate contact with the media – Journalists are resourceful and they will be calling people who have the family’s phone number. Or they will find family members on Facebook or will find an email address. Or they will come knocking at your door. I decided to announce Brandon’s death to the media, telling them from the first that I would be handling media inquiries and giving them my phone number and email address.
  3. Gather the facts – Get the who, what, when, where, how and why directly. Be sure to get your facts correct. Even a seemingly small error in fact in a news report might draw an emotional reaction from someone in the family. Don’t presume you know everything you think you know. I was mistaken about a detail of Brandon’s adoption and quickly corrected myself to reporters when I learned of my error (fortunately no one had reported that detail yet).
  4. What’s unique about this soldier – Consider what about your situation will make your soldier’s story stand out to the journalists: Did a parent or sibling serve in the military? Did a recent letter, email or Facebook message discuss the danger of battle (or reassure loved ones about the soldier’s safety)? Was the soldier riveted as a child by news accounts of 9/11 (Brandon was 8 at the time)?
  5. Decide how open you want to be – As a journalist, my inclination was to grant interviews with the news media and to grant access to events. But that wasn’t my call. The closest family members need to decide what they can handle and whether they want do do interviews. The person handling the media carries out the parents or spouse’s wishes.
  6. Provide photos – I would advise sending all media a half-dozen or more photos of your loved one — two or three military shots, a family photo or two and some photos of him or her as a child and teen-ager. Digital media outlets are interested in slide shows and photo galleries, and I should have been savvy enough to think of sending out more photos.

My condolences go out to the entire Buttry Family and my highest professional respect to Steve personally for stepping up and helping all news media do a better job in a time of personal family anguish. You can read his full blog entry HERE.

A Soldier’s Son Shares a Moment with His Departed Daddy

No need for 1,000 words with this picture re-published with the permission of the Facebook page Freedom Isn’t Free and consent from the Wise family.

Traci Wise posted this photo and text April 4, 2012:

Found my son sitting having a moment with his daddy (SFC Benjamin Wise) the other day. We lost him January 15 in Afghanistan… we cannot forget about the incredible loss these children must undertake.

According to BlackFive.net, Wise was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart and Meritorious Service Medal. And he is survived by his wife, Traci; his sons Luke and Ryan; and his daughter Kailen.

An Uncle Lost Too

According to the Arkansas newspaper, Hope Star, SFC Benjamin Wise’s brother, a former Navy SEAL, was killed in Afghanistan at a CIA outpost in December 2009.

Operation Hug-A-Hero Reaches Out to a Gold Star Family


Photo courtesy of Operation Hug-A-Hero.

Operation Hug-A-Hero, a non-profit organization that provides “Daddy Dolls” to children of deploying troops, offered free “Daddy Dolls” to the three children of Staff Sgt. Brown. He was killed earlier this month a week after arriving in Afghanistan on his fourth deployment.

Hug-A-Hero executive director Lisa Berg reached out after hearing Ariell Taylor-Brown learned on Facebook that her husband had been killed two hours before Army officers arrives with official notice.

Lisa  wrote in the comments:

Operation Hug-A-Hero would like to help this family by providing dolls to her children. This is so sad and devastating. It should have never happened this way.

Operation Hug-A-Hero holds fund-raisers to cover the cost of providing the dolls to military children.

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