Tue Jan 8, 2013, 12:03 PM
question everything (29,683 posts)
When Survivors Feel Slighted, Not Honored
Congress established the ornate Gold Star pin in 1947, and, until mid-1958, the military awarded it to the immediate family of anyone who died in the service during periods of war. After that, the pin became available primarily to families whose loved ones died "engaged in an action against an enemy" or while engaged "in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force," according to federal regulations. At the end of the Vietnam War, the military began issuing the less-ornate next-of-kin pin to the families of troops who lost their lives outside of a combat zone.
"The pins are issued to the family so what does it matter how the service person died?" asked Norma Luther, a former Gold Star Mothers president, whose son died in a military helicopter crash in Germany in 1988. Mrs. Luther has bombarded the military and government with letters asking that they reverse the two-pin policy, but sees no prospect of success. Ms. Beyler, the Pentagon official, said such a change would require an act of Congress.
Mr. Farwell, Mrs. Luther and others who share their views have been in a heated disagreement with Military Families United, a nonprofit started by a group of military parents, including John Ellsworth, of Wolverine Lake, Mich., whose son Justin, a Marine, was killed in Iraq in 2004. In 2010, the group set up the National Gold Star Family Registry, a database that includes only troops whose families received the purple pin. The registry describes those on the list as "our Nation's true Heroes."
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Marc Farwell completed four combat tours before the helicopter crash in Germany. His father became immersed in the recognition debate when he tried to apply for a special Gold Star license plate in Idaho. The state turned him down. Brig. Gen. Alan Gayhart, commander of the Idaho Army National Guard, who has since retired (resisted): "Although an honorable intent, providing Gold Star plates to families who lost a family member outside a combat zone diminishes the purpose, sanctity and significance of the honor we pay those who died while defending our nation while they were in harm's way," Gen. Gayhart wrote in a letter to an Idaho House committee.
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