What Does the Gold Star Represent?

A gold star represents the ultimate sacrifice of a family member

Gold Star Service Banner
Wikimedia Commons

The military service flag or service banner was first flown by the families of active duty service members during World War I. The flag displayed a blue star for every member of a family who was serving in the armed forces of the U.S. during war or hostilities. If that family member died, either from military action or from illness or accident while they were on active duty, the blue star was replaced by a gold star.

In modern times, when a service member dies, the Department of Defense provides a red-bordered service flag with a gold star outlined in blue or a lapel pin with a gold star to the family. Anytime you see a service flag or banner with a gold star hanging in a window, a member of the family that is displaying the flag died during active duty in a time of hostilities.

Appearance of a Service Banner

The original service banner consists of a red border and blue or gold stars, one for each family member serving in the armed forces. Modern versions of the banner usually just have the gold star. All branches of the military recognize the use of the service banner. In some instances, you may see a silver star, which represents a family member who was disabled during active duty. The size of the banner is not mandated, and the orientation is usually vertical.

Gold Star Families

The term "gold star families" or "gold star survivors" refers to the immediate family members of a service member who died in action.

They may be seen wearing gold star label pins. Gold Star families receive enhanced support from their family member's branch of service. For families who've made the ultimate sacrifice, displaying the banners year-round is a solemn way to honor and pay tribute to their loved ones.

Resources for Gold Star Families

The vast number of resources available to Gold Star Families vary by military branch, but they include:

  • Grief counseling
  • Holiday survival guide
  • Hotline
  • Memorial runs and tributes
  • Wishes granted
  • Vacations, camps and retreats
  • Financial assistance
  • Financial advice
  • Travel assistance
  • Scholarships and job training
  • Tutors
  • Books and apps for grief support
  • Home loan benefit
  • Travel to burial site
  • Legal assistance

Registration as a Gold Star Family

There is no formal count on how many Gold Star Families there are in the U.S., but families who qualify are encouraged to register at Operation Never Forget or one of the many other organizations that honor Gold Star Families.