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Helping Gold Star Families Thrive Through Adversity

  • Published
  • By Ellen Fields
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

During World War I, families who had members serving in the military would proudly display a white flag with a red border. In the center of the flag was also displayed a blue star for each service member. If the family experienced a loss of a service member in the line of duty, the star would change to GOLD. Thus we now give these families, who have suffered insurmountable losses, the designation of Gold Star.

On Sunday, 25 September, the United States will recognize Mothers who lost a service member in the line of duty. The week proceeding is also recognized as Gold Star Families Week. This is a long-standing recognition that began in 1936 when a joint congressional resolution designated the last Sunday in September as Gold Star Mother’s Day.

The Air Force Families Forever (AFFF) program stood up in 2010 under the Mortuary Affairs Program at Dover AFB but was decentralized and assigned to the Airman & Family Readiness Centers for continued implementation. Currently, the Military & Family Readiness Centers provide immediate and long-term bereavement care, service and support for surviving family members to help them heal and THRIVE as they begin a new life chapter. AFFF serves as a conduit to personalized referrals and targeted information as it relates to the death of an Airman/Guardian, facilitates connection between survivors and the Department of the Air Force (if desired), and ensures fallen Service Members and their families are always remembered. Eligible family members include surviving parents, step-parents, siblings, spouses and children and support is provided throughout their lives.

It is the little things that count to help these families navigate the Air Force without their Airman. Securing new ID Cards, managing finances, assisting with job search and counseling are all available for these families. Gold Star Families also have the opportunity to participate in a variety of morale, welfare and recreational activities. On Hurlburt Field, we have two designated parking spots to honor these families. One is located at the Air Park and the second is located at the Commissary/Exchange.

The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) helps these families thrive by providing comfort and peer support for families since 1994. Their services and resources include seminars for adults and youth at various locations throughout the country, but also retreats and expeditions around the world. In 2024 they will be hosting an expedition to Argentina!

TAPS also provides virtual opportunities for support. If a family member is unable to attend in person, they offer an on-line community and a 24/7 phone number, 800-959-TAPS (8277). Support is just a click or phone call away.

To honor a Gold Star Family, TAPS encourages that you take the opportunity to do one of the following six suggestions this Gold Star Mother and Family Day:

  1. Remember the families. 2. Take them out for a meal 3. Plant a plant or tree in their honor 4. Work on an art/craft project together 5. Light a candle 6. Look at pictures of their loved one, ask about their favorite hobbies, sports teams or talents.

To our Gold Star Families, we honor and support you. You are a part of our Family!