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Gold Star Program

What is a Gold Star Family?

When we think of a military service member, we may often picture shining medals on a sharply pressed uniform. Medals and other decorations, including the Medal of Honor, Silver and Bronze Stars, and Purple Heart, among many others, have become synonymous with heroic military service. However, there is one decoration awarded by the military that is often given to those who have never served in the armed forces. While those who receive this decoration consider it a great honor, they would also say that it is something they never wanted to receive. This is the gold star pin.

Those receiving this cherished pin are family members who have lost a loved one on active duty. These surviving family members are known as Gold Star Families. Though many who receive this pin are not service members themselves, their sacrifice earns them great respect in the eyes of those who have served.

There is a long history behind the tradition of recognizing Gold Star Families. During World War I, it became popular for parents who had a child serving overseas to display a banner with a blue star. In this way, they could show their support and pride in their loved one who was serving bravely in “The Great War”. If that child died while serving, the flag would then have a smaller gold star superimposed on it.  This new image appeared to be a gold star with a blue outline. This symbol became synonymous with military families who lost a service member.

Families of those who died while serving in the Navy are included in the Navy Gold Star Program, which helps them understand the benefits they can receive and supports them through their time of loss.

If you happen to come across someone wearing one of these pins or hear of someone being referred to as a Gold Star spouse, parent, or family member, take a moment to appreciate their journey and the ultimate sacrifices they have made.

For more information about the Gold Star Programs, visit

The Northwest Region Navy Gold Star Coordinator can be reached at

Gold Star_Symbols of Honor Theater Slide

There are two different types of Gold Star pins that are given to family members who have lost a loved one serving in the military:

1) The Gold Star Lapel Pin has a gold star on a purple background. It is bordered in gold and surrounded by gold laurel leaves. This design was established by an act of Congress on August 1, 1947 to identify widows, parents, and next of kin for service members who had lost their lives during armed hostilities dating back to World War I.

2) The Next of Kin of Deceased Personnel Lapel Button has a gold star within a circle that is surrounded by four sprigs of oak. These oak sprigs represent the branches of the U.S. armed services. This button is designated for family members that had a Service Member who served honorably and lost their life while on active duty but not while in armed combat. This button is authorized to be issued retroactively beginning March 29, 1973.

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