A View from the Hill
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 11, 2000
CONTACT: Tommy Voltero (617) 722-2240; E-mail:Thomas.Voltero@hou.state.ma.us
GOLD STAR MOTHERS ARE "SHINING" EXAMPLES OF PATRIOTISM
On Christmas Eve, 1918, George and Grace Seibold received an unusual package from the U.S. government in the mail. The message on the package read, "Effects of Deceased Officer, First Lieutenant George Vaughn Seibold." Mr. and Mrs. Seibold did not know what to make of this strange package, for they had not received any other notice that their 23 year-old son George, a World War I airman, had been killed in combat.
Refusing to believe that her son had been killed, Mrs. Seibold began to frantically search the veterans' hospitals that she volunteered in during the war, hoping to discover that George had been injured and simply lost his identification tags. She had no such luck.
After months of exhaustive investigation and sleepless nights, the family received a notice that confirmed their worst fears: "George was killed in aerial combat during the heaviest fighting over Baupaume, France, August 26, 1918." His body was never found.
Mrs. Seibold, with the same courage that brought her to veterans' hospitals day in and day out to find her lost son, did not allow grief to get the best of her. She continued to visit the hospitals, helping to ease the pain of servicemen whose lives were shattered by the horrors of World War I.
She also began to get together with other women who had lost a child in the line of duty. These compassionate women formed a small group whose purpose was not only to comfort each other in their time of loss, but to also give loving care to hospitalized veterans confined in government hospitals. This small group soon grew to over 25 members and on January 5, 1929, it officially became known as the American Gold Star Mothers, Inc. after members met in Washington to form a national organization.
The initial concept of wearing "gold stars" had its roots in a suggestion made by the Women's Committee of the Council of National Defenses in 1918 to permit women to wear black arm bands with Service Flag stars (symbolizing relatives who were killed in action) to mourn their dead. During World War I, Service Flags would have deep blue stars to represent individuals in active military service and gold stars to represent those who died in the line of duty.
The Gold Star Mothers expanded upon the idea of the Women's Committee by creating an organization where mothers throughout the nation could honor their children's bravery by proudly displaying gold stars for all to see. Wearing gold stars, according to the organization, was "the last full measure of devotion and pride of the family in this sacrifice."
The American Gold Star Mothers, Inc. has grown tremendously in its 70 years of existence to include all women who lost a son or daughter during one of many military engagements of the United States since World War I. Continuing in the mission of Grace Seibold and the other mothers who dedicated their lives to serving others, the Gold Star Mothers now have over 200 chapters nationwide.
In addition to these chapters, there are also several chapters of the Gold Star Wives of America, an organization similar to the Gold Star Mothers that is comprised of the widows of U.S. servicemen.
Members of these important organizations play a vital role in the community today by volunteering their time for the benefit of those who have served in our nation's armed forces. Almost all chapters of the Gold Star Mothers and Wives give several hours of volunteer work and personal service to all veteran's hospitals in the United States, as well as to veterans and their families.
As advocates for the preservation of the accomplishments of all veterans, these organizations provide organizational support for Veterans' Memorial projects, including involvement in Veterans' and Memorial Day activities. In addition, they provide representation on behalf of all service widows and their children for improved death compensation, health benefits, and educational assistance projects. Working closely with all veterans' organizations, the American Gold Star Mothers and Gold Star Wives have come to be well respected members of the veteran community.
This legislative session, we have been trying to make to make these two organizations a part of our own little community here in state government through a bill presented by Representative Vincent Ciampa (D- Somerville). H.5091 would permit the Gold Star Mothers and Gold Star Wives to use space within the Office of the Commissioner of Veteran's Services as a central "headquarters" so as to better coordinate their operations run in Massachusetts.
The bill, which I co-sponsored with Rep. Ciampa, would also allow the organizations to store records, mementos, relics, and historical data in the office space that would be set aside by the state. The entire cost of this proposal would consist of a small, but helpful annual appropriation of $5,000 to offset costs of stationary, supplies, and travel expenses associated with the operation of the organizations.
Passing this piece of legislation would significantly enhance the abilities of these two organizations to carry out their charitable missions to the community. By attempting to provide the Gold Star Mothers and Wives with a central base of operations, the state legislature is doing its part in recognizing the tremendous sacrifice made by the brave men and women who died while serving their country. Helping them to better serve our veterans- whose ranks have included the brave Minutemen of Lexington to the courageous peacekeepers in Bosnia- ensures that their brilliant "stars" never fade.