Gold Star Families

Blue Star Banner
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Gold Star Families

The term Gold Star family is a modern reference that comes from the Service Flag. These flags/banners were first flown by families during World War I. The flag included a blue star for every immediate family member serving in the armed forces of the United States, during any period of war or hostilities in which the armed forces of the United States were engaged. If that loved one died, the blue star was replaced by a gold star. This allowed members of the community to know the price that the family had paid for the cause of freedom.

The United States began observing Gold Star Mother’s Day on the last Sunday of September, in 1936. The Gold Star Wives was formed before the end of World War II. The Gold Star Lapel Button was established in August 1947.

Today, the nation recognizes the sacrifice that all Gold Star Family members make when a father, mother, brother, sister, son, daughter, or other loved one dies in service to the nation. Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day is the last Sunday of September and Gold Star Spouses Day is April 5. The strength of our nation is our Army. The strength of our Army is our Soldiers. The strength of our Soldiers is our families. The Army recognizes that no one has given more for the nation than the families of the fallen. (source

President Wilson authorized a suggestion made by the Women’s Committee of the Council of National Defenses, that mothers who had lost a child who served in the war could wear a traditional black mourning armband with a gold gilt star in 1918. This approval led to the tradition of a gold star covering the blue star on the Service flag to show that the service member had passed. It’s believed Wilson coined the term “Gold Star Mother.”

The Congressional Act 36 U.S.C. 179-182 of 1967 officially authorized the Service Flag. (source)

Gold Star Service Flag

White Star Families
The White Star designation recognizes families who have lost a service member to suicide, whether they were military or first responders.  22KILL honors the sacrifices of both the service member and their family by providing outreach and support programs.  These include family counseling and workshops, resource education, needs assessments, peer retreats, and other services as necessary. (source)


Blue Star Families

The Blue Star service banner originated in 1917 during World War I, when U.S. Army Capt. Robert L. Queisser of the 5th Ohio Infantry designed and patented it to honor his two sons who were serving on the front lines of the war. The banner features blue stars on a white background for each active duty service member in the family. There can be, at most, five stars.

The Blue Star service banner quickly became popular amongst other parents whose children were also serving in WWI.  On Sept. 24, 1917, an Ohio congressman read the following into the Congressional Record: “The mayor of Cleveland, the Chamber of Commerce, and the governor of Ohio have adopted this service flag. The world should know of those who give so much for liberty. The dearest thing in all the world to a father and mother: their children.” (source)

During World War II, the Department of War – the predecessor to the Department of Defense (DoD) – formally specified measurements of the flag so that it could be manufactured and distributed to military families. It also identified when the flag could be flown and who could fly it.

The Department of Defense authorized the service flag and service lapel on Dec. 1, 1967, with DoD Directive 1348.1, which implemented an act of Congress (U.S. Code 179-182). The Blue Star Service Banner is an 8.5-by-14-inch white field with one or more blue stars sewn onto a red banner. (source)

The blue star represents one family member serving, and a banner can have up to five stars. If the individual is killed or dies, a smaller golden star is placed over it. Gold stars are placed above the blue stars or to the top right of the flag, in the event a flag represents multiple servicemembers.

For more information, contact the National Security Office at (202) 263-2987 or

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