Push for federal holiday to honor “Gold Star” families is creating painful division

SAN ANTONIO – We’re familiar with Veterans Day and Memorial Day, but some think military families deserve their own federal holiday. However, not everyone agrees.

Federal lawmakers introduced a bill to create a national holiday, making the last Monday of September the Gold Star Families Act Day. Their definition of what a Gold Star family is has caused some painful division among military families.

Two Gold Star lapel buttons are given to military families. The traditional Gold Star pin was created in the 1940s to honor the surviving parents or spouses of service members who died in combat. In the 1970s, the Next of Kin Deceased lapel button was created for active duty service members who died in a drill status but not fighting an enemy in combat.

Army Veteran Candy Martin, who became a Gold Star mother in 2007, is opposed to the holiday. She said it’s very emotional for these families who have lost loved ones to be put in this position.

“All Gold Star family members are survivors, but not all survivors are Gold Star families,” Martin said. “It really bothers me that there are so many people that want to jump on that hero wagon, and it just seems like it’s the thing to do now.”

She says the meaning of the Gold Star is diluted.

Tony Cordero, founder of Sons and Daughters in Touch, lost his father when he was 5-years old in Vietnam.

“The bill goes further to change the definition in the understanding, the spirit, the history of the legacy of the Gold Star tradition,” he said.

Cordero urges people to write to their U.S. representatives to oppose the bill as it is currently written. He said while the intent might be well-meaning, there’s no need for a federal holiday.

“Never have I thought, ‘Gosh, I wish there was a Gold Star families day,’” he said.

Cordero says more than 90% of the Gold Star families are from conflicts before 9/11.

“What we refer to as the ‘Long Gold Line,’ the older Gold Star families. They are frustrated and filled with angst because we weren’t consulted about this bill,” he said.

Tamra Sipes with Gold Star Wives of America, Inc. said there are differences in opinion within her organization, but she supports the bill. Sipes says, “A loss is a loss,” no matter where the service member died.

The bipartisan bill introduced was earlier this year has quickly lost support following the backlash.

About the Authors

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.

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