September 23, 2019

Weekly Column: Honoring Gold Star Families

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

The sacrifices families make when their loved ones serve in our nation’s Armed Forces are incredibly understated.  Military families raise children and hold together households while their loved ones are far from home.  They endure sleepless nights worrying about their loved ones serving in harm’s way.  And, if their loved ones are killed in service to our country, these extraordinary families, recognized as Gold Star families, have to carry on with the memories of their husbands and wives, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers in their hearts.  They shoulder the price paid for the defense of our freedoms and the safety of Americans at home and abroad. 

In 1947, Congress established the Gold Star Lapel Button to identify the families of members of the Armed Forces who lost their lives serving our country in World War I, World War II and later hostilities.  The pins identify these special Americans and represent the love and loss family members of America’s servicemembers sustain.  Days of remembrance have also been established to honor fallen servicemembers and the sacrifices of Gold Star families.  Earlier this year, Congress unanimously passed a bipartisan resolution supporting the designation of “Gold Star Families Remembrance Day,” celebrated in March.  In doing so, the Senate emphasized, “the sacrifices of the families of the fallen members and veterans of the Armed Forces should never be forgotten.” 

Similarly, the last Sunday of September (September 29, 2019, this year) is “Gold Star Mothers’ Day.”  This recognition dates back to a joint resolution passed by Congress in 1936.  President Trump stated, “Although they have suffered unimaginable sorrow, Gold Star families have charged forward with inspiring strength and determination, giving selflessly to their communities and our country.  They support our men and women in uniform, our wounded warriors, and our veterans.  Their unselfish leadership fosters patriotism and encourages us to consider what we can do to be better citizens.”

The extraordinary strength and thoughtfulness of Gold Star families is at work in Idaho communities.  Thanks to the leadership of local Gold Star Mother Rebecca Webb and others, construction of the Idaho Gold Star Families Memorial is underway in Pocatello.  The memorial’s grand opening is planned for May of next year.  This will be a place to remember fallen servicemembers and the great sacrifice of the families who stood with them and will always love them.

Steps are also being taken to make sure that respect for the immense service of fallen servicemembers is reflected in federal policy.  In May, the Senate unanimously passed S. 1370, the Gold Star Family Tax Relief Act, I joined a bipartisan group of fellow senators in introducing to ensure that Gold Star families do not face unintended and unfair tax penalties on their survivor benefits.  The U.S. House of Representatives passed a similar fix as part of a larger piece of legislation, and efforts continue to enact a final form of this needed relief into law.

Recognition of Gold Star mothers and families this month is a reminder that we can never forget the price continually paid for our wellbeing.  Three years ago, Congress rightly expanded the Veterans History Project, a collection of veterans’ oral histories assembled by the Library of Congress, to include stories given by immediate family of Armed Forces members lost through wartime service.  The Veterans History Project website, at www.loc.gov/vets/, contains guidelines for conducting interviews and submitting stories to the project.  Valuing the cost of our freedoms and safety, and most importantly those who shoulder it, is an essential part of our American character. 

# # #

Word Count: 592