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Keep Gold Star families in mind as you take part in Memorial Day activities

Keep Gold Star families in mind as you take part in Memorial Day activities Keep Gold Star families in mind as you take part in Memorial Day activities

As reported by the “Military Times” since 9/11, more than 16,000 troops have died in non-combat circumstances and more than 7,000 died in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars alone. There are also thousands of living Gold Star Family members who lost loved ones in both World Wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and other conflicts.

According to the Gold Star Foundation, a Gold Star family is one that has experienced a loss of a loved one– an immediate family member – who died as the result of active-duty military service. Those who die in service to their country leave behind parents, siblings, spouses, children and extended families. These are recognized as Gold Star families. The title is meant to honor the service member’s ultimate sacrifice while acknowledging their family’s loss, grief, and continued healing.

Gold Star families are in the forefront of the thoughts of military families especially this time of year with Memorial Day to be held on May 27.

Memorial Day, along with Veterans Day, are national holidays that honor the sacrifice of Americans.

According to the Memorial Day Foundation, though both observances commemorate the sacrifices of thousands of American service members, they are distinctly different. Memorial Day is the older of the two holidays, having its roots in the Civil War. First known as Decoration Day, it was instituted by former Union Army Maj. Gen. John A. Logan, to honor those who died in the armed forces. Logan, later a U.S. senator from Illinois, became the first commander-in-chief of the organization of Union veterans called the Grand Army of the Republic.

With General Orders No. 11, Logan designated May 30, 1868, “for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country” and conduct special services as circumstances permitted. “Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten, as a people, the cost of free and undivided republic,” he declared. He also asked that the nation renew its pledge to assist the soldier’s and sailor’s widows and orphans.

The general said he inaugurated the observance “with the hope it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades.” The observance has continued, although now Memorial Day is observed as the last Monday of May.

The establishment of Veterans Day as a national holiday had a different purpose. It stems from the armistice that ended combat in World War I, Nov. 11, 1918. It honored all who had served in the U.S. Armed Forces in World War I. The holiday was officially called “Armistice Day” in 1926 and became a national holiday 12 years later.

It would probably still be known as Armistice Day had World War I, “The War to End All Wars,” lived up to that nickname. A few years after the day became a national holiday, the United States entered a war — World War II — that called on more than 16.5 million American men and women to serve in the U.S. military. Of those, some 292,000 died in battle.

Representative Edwin K. Rees of Kansas proposed that Nov. 11 be set aside as an occasion to honor those who served America in all wars instead of only World War I. Shortly afterward, in 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower signed the bill which officially changed the name of the holiday and broadened its purpose.

Memorial Day and Veterans Day honor the sacrifices of innumerable individuals who sacrificed themselves to preserve the freedoms all Americans enjoy, with Memorial Day remembering those who gave their lives, and Veterans Day honoring all who served in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Take time this Memorial Day to remember and honor those who have sacrificed for America and for the Gold Star Families they have left behind.

A volunteer rings a bell as the names of those who were killed in action are read. Ceremonies like this will be held throughout the country on Memorial Day, May 27. Take time to remember their sacrifice and service.