To increase awareness of two symbols that honor the ultimate sacrifice by servicemembers, the military is conducting a campaign promoting the significance of the Gold Star and Next of Kin Deceased Personnel lapel pins.
For families, the pins represent the loss of a loved one serving in the military. Gold star symbols first appeared on flags in 1918, when families would place a gold star over the blue service star hanging in their window to indicate that a loved one had been killed overseas. At that time, President Woodrow Wilson also authorized mothers to wear a gilt gold star on the traditional black mourning arm band to signify they lost a child in the war.
In 1947, the Gold Star lapel pin was designed and created to be presented to eligible surviving family members of servicemembers who died while deployed in support of overseas contingency operations, or who died from wounds sustained in theater (public law 80-306). The Gold Star lapel pin consists of a gold star on a field of purple surrounded by laurel leaves.
The Next of Kin Deceased Personnel lapel pin consists of a gold star on a gold background surrounded by four oak sprigs. It was approved in 1973 for primary next-of-kin of servicemembers who lose their lives while serving on active duty or while assigned in an Army Reserve or Army National Guard unit in a drill status, and is authorized for issue retroactive to March 29, 1973. The widow or widower, each parent, each child, stepchild, child through adoption, brother, half–brother, sister, and half– sister are entitled to receive and wear these pins in recognition of their loss and the sacrifice of their loved one.
The informational campaign was developed to help educate and inform the public of the meaning of the pins.
“It’s heartbreaking to think that a mom wearing a Gold Star might have someone ask her, ‘What a beautiful pin, where do I get one?’” said Donna Engeman, a Gold Star wife who manages the Army’s Survivor Outreach Services program at United States Army Installation Management Command.
“We decided we had to do something to ensure the nation – the world – recognizes what that pin really signifies,” Engeman said.
The Army’s commitment to survivors is reflected in its recognition of long-term support and outreach to survivors of all eras through the SOS program. The program currently provides support to more than 55,790 surviving military family members. The Army-wide program includes the Army Reserve and Army National Guard, and provides dedicated and comprehensive support services.
Support coordinators and financial counselors ensure that survivors are supported whether they live near an installation, or are geographically dispersed. The program provides long-term family case management and is integral to the Army’s casualty notification and support system.
Editor’s note: Information was obtained from www.army.mil/article/125870 and http://goldstarpins.org/MediaCenter/tabid/97/Default.aspx