Trump vs. the Khans: What are Gold Star mothers/families?

  • Debbie Lord
  • Cox Media Group National Content Desk
12:09 p.m Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016 National/World News
Khizr and Ghazala Khan — whose son Humayun Khan was an Army captain killed in Iraq in 2004 — at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Khizr spoke on the convention’s last night, July 28, 2016. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

During the past few days, we have heard  the term “Gold Star” family probably more than any time in our recent history.

The term surfaced after Khizr and Ghazala Khan appeared on  stage at the Democratic National Convetion and slammed Donald Trump because he had "sacrificed nothing and no one" to this country. Trump countered via Twitter saying he was unfairly attacked by the Khans who lost thier son,  Army Capt. Humayun Khan, to a suicide bomber in Iraq.  

Missing in some of the back and forth was just what a Gold Star family is, and why veterans and veterans groups are angry over the exchange.

Here’s a quick look at what the term  means and when it was first used.

The term Gold Star grew out of a reference to a Service Flag that was flown by family members of men fighting in World War I.

During World War I and after, the flags were given to families of men serving in the armed forces during a time of war. The flags were meant to show how many members of that family were in military service. Each family member serving was represented on the flag with a blue star.

If a family member died in service to the country, that person’s blue star on the flag would be changed to gold.

A push to honor the mothers of those killed began in 1936, nearly 20 years after the  end of World War I.   

That finally happended when the last Sunday of September became “Gold Star Mother’s Day" in 1938, after President  Franklin Roosevelt issued a proclamation remembering the sacrifices of the mothers.

Gold Star Mothers clubs began to form by the time World War II began, and before the war ended an organization of Gold Star Wives had been  formed. The tradition continued through the Korean Conflict, the Vietnam War and up through today’s conflicts.

Gold Star Mothers are today a national organization with elected officers and a set of bylaws to follow.

The U.S. Army officially recognizes the bereaved family members as "Gold Star survivors."

References: U.S. Army; Gold Star Association website

View full experience