The Gold Star Families Pentagon display was dedicated at its permanent home at the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes in a ceremony Oct. 29, 2020.
“The gold star is a symbol of your loved one, a symbol of the one that you lost — and they were children, fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters; and they were friends, and coaches, and mentors, and so much more. But most of all, they’re American heroes,” Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Gold Star families.
Milley was the keynote speaker at the ribbon-cutting event.
Defense Department officials said the history of Gold Star families dates back to World War I when military families put service flags in their window featuring a blue star for every immediate family member serving in the war. If their loved one was killed in action, the star’s color would be changed to gold. In 1918, the gold star tradition grew as President Woodrow Wilson approved a recommendation by the Women’s Committee of National Defenses to wear a black armband with a gold star. Milley said the nation must remember the casualties of war — and their service, their sacrifices, and their stories.
“Every soldier, sailor, airman, Marine and Coast Guardsman — every one of us in uniform — has written a blank check payable to the American people, which says each of us is willing to give our all [in] that we are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” the chairman said.
And behind every soldier, sailor, airman, Marine and Coast Guardsman willing to give their all are the loved ones who support them in service and sacrifice, he added.
Each Gold Star family member is also a hero, filled with compassion, resilience and patriotism, and words can do no justice to the loss of their loved ones, Milley said.
“I ask that each of us remember why we joined and why we fought — we in uniform and those of us who came before us — [and] why we are willing to lay it on the altar of freedom? So that Americans of this generation and every generation to come remain forever free,” the chairman said. “As taps is played, it not only signals a tremendous loss, but it also signals the reaffirmation of our resolve to ensure that their memory never dies. So, honor them, tell their story.”
Milley encouraged Gold Star families who watched virtually to visit the memorial in the Pentagon and tell a loved one’s story because their loved ones provided the liberties all Americans enjoy.
“Tell their story far and wide. Tell the story that this country, these United States, our values, our flag, this idea, this experiment of liberty so conceived of the people, by the people, and for the people, the idea of freedom and equality for all, that idea is still worth fighting for,” the chairman said.
“And each of you, as a Gold Star family member, is living proof of the sacrifice required for that idea to continue. So, let us never forget,” Milley said. “Let us never forget your sons and daughters and why they gave their lives that they were willing to sacrifice, the promise of their tomorrow for the brightness and the freedoms of our today.”
Matthew P. Donovan, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness hosted the unveiling ceremony of the Gold Star Memorial; Gold Star wife Jane Horton created the display.