Gold Star Spouses Day Celebrates the Families U.S. Heroes Left Behind

(AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

“Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” — Jesus Christ (John 15:13)

Gold Star families, spouses, or wives refer to family members left behind when a member of the U.S. military dies while serving in the line of duty. To honor those who must carry on after a loved one makes the ultimate sacrifice for our country, Gold Star Spouses (or Wives) Day is celebrated this year on April 5.



The U.S. Army official site explains that the Gold Star is a tradition that began during World War I. Service flags were flown by military families during this time, with blue stars for every family member serving in uniform.

“If that loved one died,” reports, “the blue star was replaced by a gold star”…Later, the tradition evolved to include the wearing of a Gold Star lapel button, awarded by the military to surviving family members.

In 1947 Congress approved the design of the official Gold Star Lapel Button, allowing it to formally recognize service members who lost their lives in combat. The official Gold Star pin has a gold star on a purple background.

As for today’s holiday, it began in 1936 as Gold Star Mothers Day on the last Sunday of September. The Gold Star Wives organization started before WWII ended, followed by the Gold Star lapel buttons in the summer of 1947. In December 2010, Gold Star Wives Day was established. It was later moved by Senate resolution to April 5. The holiday is now also called Gold Star Spouses Day.


My priest told an interesting story in his homily this past weekend (whether fictional or based on true events, I don’t know) that seems appropriate both for Gold Star Spouses Day and for Holy Week, both of which we mark today. The story goes that, after World War II, when almost every family sent a man to fight in the U.S. military, a man and his son were walking down a long street. There were gold stars in many windows of the houses on this street. Some houses even had two gold stars. The father explained to the little boy that the stars meant a father or son from each house had died in the war.

The little boy, who did not quite understand the reality of the tragedy behind the symbols, but understood that they were marks of honor, became excited. Every time he saw a star, the boy would clap his hands. Finally, the father and son reached the end of the street and found themselves in an open space without houses around them. Night had fallen during their walk and the first star had just appeared in the sky.

With his head full of the gold stars and the symbolism his father had explained, the little boy pointed to the star glimmering in the sky. “Look, Daddy!” he exclaimed. “God must have sent his son too—and the son must have died.” The father smiled. “Yes, God did send His Son to die for us so that we could be free.”


There is only one Redeemer of the world, but there are hundreds of thousands of Americans who died in wars, at home and abroad, from the 1700s up through our present day. Each Gold Star represents a precious life lost, a sacrifice so that those left behind might continue to live free. To all the families of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for America, thank you. We are forever in your debt.


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