As citizens of the United States of America, we will be observing Memorial Day this coming Monday. Memorial Day is a day set aside to honor military men and women who have lost their lives while serving our country. Unfortunately, many have forgotten the solemn meaning of this day. People have come to look upon this holiday as the first weekend of summer and celebrate with picnics rather than patriotism. However, there is a special group of women who still observe the true meaning of Memorial Day. I want to honor the American Gold Star Mothers today.
Let me take you back in history to World War I. When the United States entered the war in 1917, George Vaughn Seibold, 23, volunteered for military service. With her son no longer being home, Grace Darling Seibold decided to do some volunteering herself. She began visiting returning servicemen in hospitals.
Over time, Grace quit receiving letters from her son. However, she did not quit her volunteer work. She still visited hospitalized veterans in the Washington area. Unfortunately, George was never found. Her son had given his life for his country.
Grace knew that self-contained grief was destructive. So, she expanded her community service. While continuing to visit those hospitalized, she also reached out to other mothers who had lost sons in military service. Grace and these mothers organized a special group. Their purpose was not only to comfort each other, but to give loving care to hospitalized veterans in government hospitals far from home.
On June 4, 1928, twenty-five mothers met in Washington, DC to establish a national organization known as American Gold Star Mothers, Inc. It is a private, nonprofit organization of American mothers who have lost sons and daughters serving in the United States Armed Forces.
The organization’s name was chosen because of the custom of military men and women’s families hanging a banner called a service flag in the windows of their homes. The service flag has a star for each family member in the Armed Forces. Living military personnel are represented by a blue star. When a son or daughter loses their life in combat, a gold star is superimposed over the blue star.
The Gold Star gives honor and glory to the person who has made the supreme sacrifice of life for his or her country. It signifies the last full measure of devotion and pride for the family making this sacrifice. These families do not want to focus upon mourning symbols that point out their personal loss. Gold Star Mothers choose to wear white instead of black. White denotes the celebration of their children’s goodness, innocence and sacrifice.
It is stated on the Gold Star Mothers’ website, “The success of our organization continues because of the bond of mutual love, sympathy, and support of the many loyal, capable, and patriotic mothers who while sharing their grief and their pride, have channeled their time, efforts and gifts to lessening the pain of others. We stand tall and proud by honoring our children, assisting our veterans, supporting our nation, and healing with each other.”
I first became aware of this group through a special friend, Dorothy, who is a Gold Star Mother. She and her husband Ken lost their son Nicholas on December 13, 2012. Nick was a Staff sergeant in the Army and was part of the Explosive Ordinance Disposal. He gave his life while serving in Afghanistan. Dorothy was a Blue Star Mother. Her blue star became a gold star. Today, the banner of the Gold Star Mothers of America hangs in a window of their home.
Memorial Day has a treasured place in the hearts of Gold Star Mothers and their families. On this day, they especially remember the lives of military sons and daughters they have lost. This year, Ken and Dorothy are going to Washington DC to join other soldiers and their families with whom Nick served. They will be attending the “Rolling Thunder Ride for Freedom 2019” event. This is a motorcycle rally that begins on Sunday at the Pentagon after a “blessing of the bikes” at the National Cathedral on Friday. The various events conclude on Monday. Nick’s first sergeant, Lt. Burns from Kansas, will be riding Nick’s motorcycle in this event. During the ride, they will stop at Arlington National Cemetery to visit the grave site of one of Nick’s comrades. These two soldiers were part of the same unit and died within a month of each other. Dorothy says, “It will be a time of remembrance for all of the families that are visiting there.”
Nick is no longer alive on earth, but he is alive in heaven. The life he lived still influences the lives of his parents. Dorothy says, “The Lord continues to grant us opportunities to reach out with God’s love to others who have suffered the loss of loved ones.”
Today, I am privileged to honor these special Gold Star Mothers as well as remember those who have given their lives while serving our country. Let’s celebrate Memorial Day as originally intended.