April 5th has been dedicated by the Department Of Defense as National Gold Star Spouse Day – and for good reason.
The day is specifically meant to honor the spouses – mostly wives – who will not see their soldiers return home from war.
The tradition of flying a flag with a gold star on it started during World War I, where families would change a blue star (which signified their soldier was away at war) to a gold one after he or she did not return home alive.
“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 in the cause of freedom,” according to the Army.
It’s important to keep these traditions alive, especially in the fast-paced and increasingly desensitized times we live in now. Part of what makes our country so great is how it honors its fallen heroes. I would know. My family flies a gold star flag at home every day.
When my father, a Lt. Col Marine Corps helicopter pilot, was killed in 2004, I was 10 years old. My brother was 8. We were left wondering where, how, and why an atrocity like this would happen. We were young and didn’t fully comprehend the US’s involvement in Iraq. We didn’t understand what my father died doing, and why the press camped outside our door for days on end, begging for a comment.
But one person’s strength never wavered in those days after the white DOD van pulled into our driveway to deliver the news. Through the heartbreak and the confusion, it was my mother who held our family together. I watched as she put on a brave face as “TAPS” played during my father’s burial. I watched as she handled paperwork, logistics, and took over the role of two parents seamlessly. Sure, she cried. But she never once made my brother or me question whether we were going to make it. To this day, when I’m met with hardship in my life, I hear those words she repeated over and over in July 2004: “We are going to be okay.”
My mom, like so many other military spouses, is the embodiment of strength and perseverance. Gold star military spouses are national treasures. They’re entrusted to carry on their fallen soldier’s legacy after they pass on. Like their soldiers would have wanted them to do, they thrive in hardship. They spit in the face of tragedy. And they don’t get angry, they get stronger.
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