Gold Star Mother’s Day

| September 27, 2020 | 21 Comments

Gold Star Mother’s Day is observed in the United States on the last Sunday of September each year. It is a day for people to recognize and honor those who have lost a son or daughter while serving the United States Armed Forces. Today is that day.

One of our own, Only Army Mom, is a Gold Star Mother. She is active in that community, and we are honored and humbled when she comments here. Today she is giving a speech- I won’t say where to guard her privacy- and is incredibly generous in forwarding her thoughts to us.

A word of caution. While she starts with expected background, and the meaning of being part of the Gold Star Family, for that is what it is; be very glad her ire is not directed at you.

Gold Stars and Politics

Only Army Mom

For the past several weeks, statements about how President Trump hates the military, disrespects veterans and dishonors The Fallen and Gold Star families are getting air time once again. This seems to be because Sunday, September 27 is Gold Star Mothers Day, and because we are in the midst of the most contentious election cycle most of us can remember. And of course, the Presidential debate on Tuesday is a factor as well.

Regardless of the why, it is time to share some advice that I cannot strongly enough recommend.

Do not politicize the Gold Star.

If you’d care to argue or challenge me, bring it. But you better pack a lunch.

Let me explain a few things to you about this community of Gold Stars to which I belong. Everyone knows the military if it can be said to lean, does so slightly to the Right. But neither the military nor veteran community are a monolithic voting bloc. Still, those who choose to serve generally come from – or develop while in the military – a certain mindset and character; they have some common experiences, some common reference points. Focusing on this is how many make the mistake of believing military service equates with a singular set of perspectives on social and political issues.

So, there is some evidence to support a statement about the military and veteran world views leaning ever so slightly Right. But, to extend that thinking to include assumptions about the families of those who serve is an unwarranted and unsupported extrapolation. That includes the Gold Star families.

This community only has second-hand common reference points, our loved ones’ service, and their death while wearing the Uniform of that service. In nearly all other respects, getting the Gold Star community to agree about nearly anything is like herding cats with a hula-hoop.

This is why the nearly universally respected and honored rule about not politicizing the Gold Star is so significant. And why those who break this rule face extreme ostracization from the community.

This community plays a critical, often literally life-saving role for its members. The significance of being able to relate the most horrific moments of life to a room full of people who understand without a word being spoken cannot be overstated. Loss of this community, loss of this connection can be devastating.

Fear of this consequence is not the only, or even primary, reason for the prohibition against politicizing the Gold Star. Simply put, there is no such thing as a Democrat or Republican Gold Star because there is no such thing as a Democrat or Republican Soldier, Sailor, Marine, Airman or Coastie.

The Gold Star Lapel Pin is a military decoration bestowed upon the family members of those who had that blank check cashed. We did nothing to earn this recognition. It has come to us through the service and sacrifice of our loved ones and as such, we are honor-bound to respect and uphold the principles which it represents. This includes respect for Uniform Code of Military Justice under which our loved ones lived and died. Their headstones and memorials contain a lot of information about who they were, but political affiliation is notably, intentionally, rightfully, absent.

Perhaps the only other nearly universally held opinions within the Gold Star community relate to how we wish the rest of society view us. We want people to understand that the price of their freedom has been paid with the blood of our loved ones. And, this price continues to be paid by the life-long, never-ending grief of the families.

Another widely agreed upon sentiment is, we would rather you know nothing about us, not know we exist, than to use us as political pawns. Or, use the headstones of our loved ones as elevated bully pulpits from which to beat on your opponents. We’ve all seen too many examples of this, from the politicians who use the wake and funeral services of The Fallen as a photo op, or those who insert themselves into a private, family tragedy to raise their political profile and pander for votes.

Those within the community who use the Gold Star as a cudgel with which to strike a political blow and then as a shield when criticized for doing so are viewed as having committed among the worst offenses possible. Another even more shameful and inexcusable act is to claim the sacrifice of your loved one as your own sacrifice. Again, we did nothing the parents and loved ones of everyone who has ever worn the uniform of our Nation has not done. We are not Abraham on the mountain, because rest assured if we were, our loved ones would be here. To claim their sacrifice as your own is to dishonor the one you claim to honor.

Still, we are not an unforgiving, rigid community that demands adherence to an unwritten set of rules. We realize that most who are called Gold Star had no idea what that term meant before they became one. We understand grief is a singular experience in that everyone goes through it differently. From hard experience, the Gold Star community have become subject matter experts on this topic.

Because of this knowledge, there is an automatic grace granted to the newest members of the club none wanted to join. We remember the insane circus we were thrust into, and how the unrelenting glare of the media’s klieg lights blinded us. So, we tend to respond with tolerance and grace. We know that whatever is being said or done at this point is less a statement of character and more a functional inability to filter the outcry of grief.

This grace period generally lasts about a year, which I call Year Zero. We encourage taking this time before any decisions – including choosing to publicly speak or express an opinion. We also know from hard experience that those who do not take this time in the beginning will be forced to sooner or later, and too often as a result of a catastrophic personal crash and burn.

When this happens because another used the private grief of one of our members, our wrath is unending. Making enemies of those who have lost – and survived – the worst thing a human being can endure is not wise.

Which brings us back to current headlines and the nonsense dribbling out of the mouths of politicians and pundits.

If your proof this president hates the military, veterans, The Fallen or Gold Stars includes any reference to media reports about supposed journalism that quotes anonymous sources, or the intentional and despicable twisting of appropriate words of condolences, shut up. The words military, veteran, The Fallen and Gold Star are tainted for having passed through your mouth.

The facts invalidate your accusation. What’s more, your repeating those smears, half-truths and flat out lies bolsters the opposite position and exposes the weakness and desperation of the side you mistakenly believe you’re elevating.

If you are a member of one of those named groups and you repeat these proven falsehoods, you are an object lesson – just because someone is a …fill in the blank… doesn’t mean they are honorable or worthy of the respect the title would otherwise afford.

If you are a politician and are counting on the ignorance of the voting public, you exemplify everything wrong with our political system. The fact that you court a rise in polls based on public ignorance is the most telling feature of your platform.

Finally, as I have repeatedly said, Gold Stars do not use their honorific title for political purposes. However, I also said, and mean wholeheartedly, that to court the wrath of those who have survived that which would destroy most is not wise. Gold Stars are quiet but our collective voice on this topic would drown out the trumpets of Gabriel.

Category: Guest Post, Reality Check

Comments (21)

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  1. Only Army Mom says:

    Thank you Aw1Ed but a slight edit is required. This is NOT the speech I will deliver today. Today’s speech needs to be a very different tone. This is what I had to write to get out of my head so I could write the appropriate, PC speech for today.

    As always thank you and all the wonderful TAH folks for always remembering.

    • AW1Ed says:

      My mistake. Edited to clarify.

      • Poetrooper says:

        I was wondering about that–sounded awfully political for a non-political speech–but it’s my kind of politics and spoken the way I speak, straightforwardly, so I have no problem with it.

        Too bad that the PC is so strong nowadays that we can’t speak our minds in public forums without huge, shrill blowback which I’m sure Only Army Mom would get were she to give this speech.

        Ms. OAM, on this your day, please again accept my condolences on your loss and my thanks to you and your fallen soldier for your joint sacrifice.

  2. Thunderstixx says:

    LCpl Adam Wolff, Helmand Province Afghanistan, June 14, 2014.
    Godspeed young Marine and God Bless your Gold Star Mother, a lifelong friend of mine…..

    • Only Army Mom says:

      Thunderstixx
      On behalf of the sister I have not met, thank you. She is fortunate to have you as a friend. Tell his story, tell how he lived and he will live forever. There is no greater gift you can give her.

      • Mason says:

        Tell his story, tell how he lived and he will live forever.

        This reminds me of a recently released rock song that has really resonated with me lately. Disturbed is a bad that normally does heavy/thrash metal that’s pretty dark. This song is totally different than most of their stuff. It’s really a beautiful song with a good message.

  3. STSC(SW/SS) says:

    OAM,

    Peace be with you. May God and time heal your loss.

  4. OWB says:

    Well said. And thank you for so eloquently expressing the views of many of us who served honorably.

    Some of us feel that our families also served. Having been an Army brat and then watching my family during my own military service, I can say with some surety that it is the families that often carry a larger burden than does the individual serving. I have been with wives and mothers as they awaited word if their warriors survived ambushes. And I have talked with former POW’s about their experiences and heard their anguish about what impact their captivity had on their families.

    And, of course, I have been in those far off places, often in harm’s way, knowing when the dangers were real and when I was safer than at home. My family did not know those details and was on high alert the entire time.

    So, thank you again. We honor you and all the Gold Star families. We are ever aware that but for the grace of God, you could be our families. We are also so grateful that you take care of each other so well and that if our families need you, you are there for them.

  5. Green Thumb says:

    Always remember, never forget.

  6. Graybeard says:

    Thank you, OAM.

    I am thankful we did not have to join your ranks, but stand with you the best we know how.

    God bless and comfort you all.

  7. 5th/77th FA says:

    May God’s Blessings continue to bring His Peace and Comfort to all of our Gold Star Families. We that, “but for the Grace of God go…”, stand with you and stand ready to assist you in anything that we can do for you.

    OAM, the above may not be the speech you gave today, but, IMO, it is the speech that needs to be given. To each and every vote sniffing political hack out there. We here, and the Country as a whole owes you a Debt of Honor that can never be properly paid.

  8. Jarhead says:

    OAM..even in the peace and quiet of an early morning like this, there really is no comfort discussing the the ultimate sacrifice your son and so many others have made for the sake of democracy in this country. From those of us who have served and returned home in one piece, it is especially important to know it could have been any one of us who did not return home alive. For that we are thankful, but so saddened to know how many made that ultimate sacrifice for a just cause.

    You son was one of the many Sandy Kane’s of this song linked below. More often than not, just listening to the song brings tears, knowing what we were all fighting for, and how some made their last stand in a country far away.

    May God bless and comfort you as much as HE possibly can. Your loss is one that will NEVER be forgotten, and I pray that your soul will one day be at peace in spite of your loss. In its own way this song explains why so many willingly made a personal effort to provide this country and others with Democracy. The only failing in this song is showing how sacrifices made such a lasting impact on parents such as yourself. God Bless.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ydWhRObVxrM

  9. ChipNASA says:

    OK I’m going to pile on here and OAM, I’m not certain you’ll catch this but thank you.

    I can’t express how much this impacts me.

    Usually I’m make some smart assed remark now like “I’m not crying you’re crying” shit to cover my true feelings, because as a member who served many, many years in the military, I learned to deflect, use dark humor and also downplay the reality that is the danger of serving.
    Fortunately and unfortunately, I am one of the few that was not ever really in harms way in my career and I can also say I was lucky to not have ever lost one of “my” troops or brother or sisters in arms. I however, can’t say that some of my guys and gals didn’t complete their service unscathed. It pains me to write this and admit it, but I had an inordinate amount of guilt, sadness and sorrow over much of this as it was my intent and training to be ready when “the balloon went up” as we used to say. I did spend a significant amount of my career on a rapid deployment team and also volunteered for active duty a few times, but was only ever used as backfill to others who forward deployed.
    Such is the luck of the draw but I have had many who have heard these words and have pointed out gracefully, “You served”, “you supervised and trained those that did deploy and returned successfully and safely” and finally “You can’t change what didn’t happen”…
    The point this this all being is, I do understand what my family felt when I did sign up, when I did leave and go half way around the world for a few years and then return to the US to complete my first enlistment. I also know how they felt when I spent almost the next 20 years, continuing my career.
    It wasn’t a big deal to me, I was just doing my job.
    BUT, having heard what did happen to family members of military members who were POWs and who were lost during the Vietnam War, who served with my father who was an F101 pilot who also only served in the US, I can only imagine your life and experience and how it impacts the family when a service member is lost.

    I don’t have the words to tell you how much respect I have for you and how truly powerful your words are.
    I am thankful for you. I can only say this and have an expectation that you forgive me for lumping you in with the other Gold Star family members, which you explicitly requested in your writing we not do, but you’ll understand.
    I hope many, if not almost all, are much like you have represented yourself, and again I am at a real loss for words…strong, courageous, empathetic, deeply caring, tremendously patriotic, and have the toughness and hardiness to keep on, keeping on, in the face of an unspeakable and unimaginable foe, the loss of your most precious resource, your son or daughter.

    I hope all of you can excuse my verboseness of text (LOL shocker…) but I have so much I’d desire to express to Only Army Mom but I’d hope that she understands just how proud and thankful I am of both you, and your child’s service.

    I am humbled.

    SMSgt Chip

    • Only Army Mom says:

      Chip –
      now I’m the one resorting to the “I’m not crying you’re crying”.

      I…awe hell.

      Thank you. Just thank you.

      • Only Army Mom says:

        …and for the record, I live in awe of my Gold Star family. Their courage, strength and grace astound me constantly…as do those who honorably wear the title Veteran like you and the crowd here at TAH.

        • KoB says:

          Yepper OAM, ’bout the time we get the dust bunnies and onion ninjas out of the air filters, Chippie just had to come along and kick everybody right in the feelz.

          One thing else for certain, you or any other Gold Star Mother and/or Family could have a need and just about 99.69% of the people on this site would do whatever they could to help fulfill that need.

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