My son, Alec, is Air Force ROTC. I asked him to write this post in honor of Memorial Day.
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When I was in the first grade, my mother would read history books to me. We had a collection of books on American History. One of my favorite books was on World War II, and that's where I first learned of the Gold Star on service banners. Those are the small flags you may have seen in people's windows. They are the official banners that members of a soldier's family can display.
I remember the first time I saw a service flag or service banner in someone's window. I recognized it from the book we had read, and was surprised to see it. I didn't think I would ever see a Gold Star on display. We have only 10,000 people living in my town, but there are two houses within a mile of us that have a Gold Star in their windows.
If you see a service banner, there are two types of service banners that people place in their windows:
--One with the Blue Star. This means someone in the immediate family is currently serving in the military.
--One with a Gold Star. This means means someone from the immediate household died while serving our country.
Once I learned about the Gold Stars, I began to notice them in any city or town I was in. When we went to visit my aunt, I saw a Gold Star Banner two doors down from her house. She hadn't ever noticed it.
There is an online registry, the link is here, where you can enter your hometown and search the registry for any Gold Star families in your area--you don't have to know a soldier's name.
You can read their names and send a thank you to the family, or leave a tribute on the pages there. When my family drove through the town of Portage on the way to Wisconsin Dells, we looked up any fallen heroes and I was surprised to see that a green beret had died from that town. He was a character portrayed in the movie Black Hawk Down, a Delta Force sniper.
I encourage you to look up your hometown as a way of remembering our soldiers. It can be something special you can do on Memorial Day. Find out the last name and leave them a tribute on the site. Don't think your town is too small because there are two families with Gold Stars in their windows near our house, and we are a small town.
The people who die fighting for our country are not just numbers, they are people with families who love them, and never want them forgotten.
Memorial Day is picnics and parades, we know that. But you can make it a day for what it was set aside for: to remember and honor.
You can remember the soldiers who fought for us by finding out their names and reading them out loud. They're not forgotten that way and they become real.
The service flags were started in 1917 by a father for his two sons. He gave this reason, "The world should know of those who give so much for liberty."
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