In 1945, a small group of women gathered together in a military spouse's home to offer solace and comfort to the widows of servicemembers killed in action. Their goal was to work together to improve the benefits afforded to surviving military spouses. Just a week after that meeting, President Franklin D. Roosevelt died. His widow, Eleanor Roosevelt, found out about the group, joined, and became one of its most active members.
Over time, as word got around, those meetings grew and grew.
Based on the premise that, "Only a service spouse understands the sorrow and problems of another service spouse," and wanting to meet the needs of the grieving widows, the group expanded and eventually formed what is now a non-profit, congressionally chartered organization known as the Gold Star Wives of America. Today, Gold Star Wives has more than 10,000 members around the country.
The organization has remained true to its mission, and continues to offer comfort and support to its members, as well as much-needed help navigating the complicated benefits system. Gold Star Wives is also extremely active in advocating on behalf of its members. Members are frequently speak to Congressional committees, seeking to expand the range of benefits (educational, medical, and so on) that are available to surviving spouses.
Gold Star Wives' activities aren't limited to wartime.
As anyone who has been connected with the military knows, thousands of servicemembers die during peacetime as well. Sometimes it's the result of a service-connected injury, other times it's a training accident or a tragic suicide.
A Membership Organization
Gold Star Wives is a membership organization, with more than 50 chapters divided among eight regions.
Individual chapters meet frequently, and most of the regions have annual conferences (typically in the spring). The national, umbrella has its annual convention in the summer and a reception in Washington, D.C to recognize and appreciate members.
Although initially formed by female surviving spouses, we all know that female servicemembers have paid the ultimate price. For that reason, Gold Star Wives now welcomes widowers whose spouse was killed in action. Mothers and fathers of fallen servicemembers may also join.
Members tend to be active in their local community, volunteering at VA hospitals and clinics and participating in memorial events on Veterans Day, Memorial Day, and other times throughout the year.
If you or someone you know could benefit from the support and services that Gold Wives of America provides, we encourage you to visit The Gold Star Wives Web site. You'll find details about the organization's history and activites, as well as information on local and regional chapters and how you can become a member.
Updated by Armin Brott, February 2016