Gold Star Mothers Club

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A single gold star flag

The American Gold Star Mothers Inc. was formed in the United States shortly after World War I to provide support for mothers who lost sons or daughters in the war. The name came from the custom of families of servicemen hanging a banner called a Service Flag in the window of their homes. The Service Flag had a star for each family member in the United States Armed Forces. Living servicemen were represented by a blue star, and those who had lost their lives were represented by a gold star. Gold Star Mothers are often socially active but are non-political. Today, membership in the Gold Star Mothers is open to any American woman who has lost a son or daughter in service to the United States. On the last Sunday in September, Gold Star Mother's Day is observed in the U.S. in their honor.[1] The group holds a congressional charter under Title 36 of the United States Code.

Founding[edit]

Gold Star Monument at Ocala, Florida Memorial Park.

The Gold Star Mothers was founded by Grace Darling Seibold of Washington, D.C.[2]

When the United States entered World War I in 1917, George Vaughn Seibold, 23, volunteered, requesting assignment in aviation. He was sent to Canada where he learned to fly British planes since the United States had neither an air force nor planes. Deployed to England, he was assigned to the British Royal Flying Corps, 148th Aero Squadron. With his squadron, he left for combat duty in France. He corresponded with his family regularly. His mother, Grace Darling Seibold, began to do community service by visiting returning servicemen in the hospitals.

The mail from George stopped. Since all aviators were under British control and authority, the United States could not help the Seibold family with any information about their son.

Grace continued to visit hospitalized veterans in the Washington area, clinging to the hope that her son might have been injured and returned to the United States without any identification. While working through her sorrow, she helped ease the pain of the many servicemen who returned so war-damaged that they were incapable of ever reaching normalcy.

But on October 11, 1918, George's wife in Chicago received a box marked "Effects of deceased Officer 1st Lt. George Vaughn Seibold". The Seibolds also received a confirmation of George's death on November 4 through a family member in Paris.

On Sunday, December 15, 1918, nine days before Christmas Eve, the following obituary appeared in the Washington Star newspaper:

Lieut. G. V. Seibold Killed in Action
Battling Aviator, Recently Cited for Bravery in France, is War Victim.
Lieut. George Vaughn Seibold, battling aviator, cited for bravery in action some time ago, lost his life in a fight in the air August 26, last. His father, George G. Seibold…has been officially notified of his son’s death by the War Department.
Lieut. Seibold was a member of the 148th U. S. Aero Squadron. He was first reported missing in action, though a number of circumstances led to the fear that he had been killed. Hope was sustained until now, however, by the failure to receive definite word.

George's body was never identified.

Grace, realizing that self-contained grief is self-destructive, devoted her time and efforts to not only working in the hospital but extending the hand of friendship to other mothers whose sons had lost their lives in military service.

She organized a group consisting solely of these special mothers, with the purpose of not only comforting each other, but giving loving care to hospitalized veterans confined in government hospitals far from home.

The organization was named after the Gold Star that families hung in their windows in honor of the deceased veteran.

After years of planning, June 4, 1928, twenty-five mothers met in Washington, DC to establish the national organization, American Gold Star Mothers, Inc.

On May 28, 1918, President Wilson approved a suggestion made by the Women’s Committee of the Council of National Defenses that, instead of wearing conventional mourning for relatives who have died in the service of their country, American women should wear a black band on the left arm with a gilt star on the band for each member of the family who has given his life for the nation.

“The Service Flag displayed from homes, places of business, churches, schools, etc., to indicate the number of members of the family or organizations who are serving in the Armed Forces or who have died from such service. Service flags have a deep Blue Star for each living member in the service and a Gold Star for each member who has died.” Thus, the Gold Star and the term Gold Star Mother, as applied to mothers whose sons or daughters died in World War I, were accepted; they have continued to be used in reference to all American military engagements since that time.

Gold Star Mothers
commemorative issue of 1948

Notable members[edit]

Perhaps the single most famous mother to have joined was Aletta Sullivan, the mother of the five Sullivan brothers, who were killed in action when their ship, the USS Juneau (CL-52) was sunk by an enemy torpedo on November 13, 1942 during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. On September 21, 1948, the U.S. Post Office issued a commemorative stamp, specially designed by artist Charles R. Chickering, honoring the Gold Star Mothers. Mrs. Sullivan was given the first sheet of stamps issued.[3]

Today[edit]

Today, membership in the Gold Star Mothers is open to any American woman whose child has died in the line of duty of the United States Armed Forces. Stepmothers and adoptive mothers are eligible for membership under certain circumstances. Husbands and children of Gold Star Mothers are eligible to join as Associate Members.

Gold Star Mothers is made up of local chapters, which are organized into departments. Five members are required to start a local chapter. If no local chapter is available, a woman may join the organization as a member at large.

Just as when it was founded, the Gold Star Mothers continues to concentrate on providing emotional support to its members, doing volunteer work with veterans in general and veterans' hospitals in particular, and generally fostering a sense of patriotism and respect for members of the Armed Forces.

In early September 2005, Gold Star Mothers accepted its first non-citizen - Carmen Palmer of Mount Vernon, New York, who was born in Jamaica - as a member. The group had banned non-citizens for the first 77 years of its existence, most notably rejecting the application of Ligaya Lagman whose son Anthony was killed while serving in Afghanistan.[4] Palmer's son, Marine Cpl. Bernard Gooden, died in 2003 in Iraq at age 22.

The group currently has 933 members.

In September 2012, President Barack Obama rededicated the last day in September as "Gold Star Mother's and Family's Day."[5]

Controversy[edit]

On May 26, 2001, NewsMax published an article claiming freshman Senator (and former first lady) Hillary Clinton had refused to meet with the Gold Star Mothers.[6] The website Snopes.com disputes the article, describing the incident as two Gold Star mothers visiting Clinton's office without an appointment, on a day when Clinton was not present.[7] However, according to the Gold Star Mothers, "Senator Clinton greeted us graciously on Gold Star Mothers Sunday, 2005."[8][9][7][10]

In the 1974 Ohio Senate primary race between Howard Metzenbaum and John Glenn, Metzenbaum contrasted his business background with Glenn's military and astronaut credentials, saying his opponent had "never worked for a living." Glenn's reply came to be known as the "Gold Star Mothers" speech. He told Metzenbaum to go to a veterans' hospital and "look those men with mangled bodies in the eyes and tell them they didn't hold a job. You go with me to any Gold Star mother and you look her in the eye and tell her that her son did not hold a job." [11]

Uniform[edit]

The uniform consists of a white skirt, white shirt, and a white blazer, with a gold star embroidered on either lapel, and gold piping on the sleeve cuffs, and collars, and white shoes, either Mary Janes, or pumps, with a white cap, similar to a women's service hat, with gold piping. This uniform is worn at all parades, meetings, and social functions connected with military functions (i.e. Memorial Day services at Arlington National Cemetery, etc.)

License plates[edit]

Most states offer some form of a specialty license plate for motor vehicles owned by specific members of Gold Star families.[12]

American Gold Star Manor[edit]

American Gold Star Manor, located in Long Beach, California, is a 348-unit retirement home for parents of soldiers killed while serving in the military. It was founded in the early 1960s by Eleanor Boyd, then president of the American Gold Star Mothers organization.[13]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "36 U.S. Code § 111 - Gold Star Mother’s Day". Law.cornell.edu. Retrieved 17 October 2014. 
  2. ^ History. American Gold Star Mothers, Inc. official website. Retrieved 2011-02-06.
  3. ^ "Gold Star Mothers Issue". Smithsonian National Postal Museum. Retrieved Sep 24, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Group shuns Filipino mother of slain soldier". msnbc.com. Retrieved 17 October 2014. 
  5. ^ White House, Press Office. "Presidential Proclamation -- Gold Star Mother's and Family's Day, 2012". Retrieved 29 September 2012. 
  6. ^ "NewsMax.com: Inside Cover Story". Web.archive.org. Retrieved 17 October 2014. 
  7. ^ a b "Hilary Clinton refuses to meet Gold Star Mothers". Snopes.com. Retrieved 17 October 2014. 
  8. ^ "American Gold Star Mothers - Gold Star Mothers Sunday". Web.archive.org. Retrieved 17 October 2014. 
  9. ^ [1][dead link]
  10. ^ "NewsMax Apologizes!". Conwebwatch.tripod.com. Retrieved 17 October 2014. 
  11. ^ "Howard M. Metzenbaum, 1917-2008: Ohio Senator was a champion of labor and master of rules", Los Angeles Times, 2008-03-13: B9 
  12. ^ Gold Star Family License Plate Status. American Gold Star Mothers, Inc. official website. Retrieved 2011-02-06.
  13. ^ Phillips, Michael M. (August 11, 2012). "Parents of Fallen Troops Find a Home for Their Grief". The Wall Street Journal. pp. A1, A6. Retrieved August 11, 2012. 

External links[edit]