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Family Matters Blog: Marines Honor Gold Star Families

By Heather Forsgren Weaver
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 28, 2010 – Heather Forsgren Weaver, of American Forces Press Service, is a regular contributor to Family Matters. Heather's been heavily involved in this blog from the start. She edits, helps write and posts content on a daily basis.

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Gold Star family members applaud during a concert held in the honor at Six Flags America in Mitchellville, Md., July 24, 2010. The concert was part of Families United Weekend of Remembrance, a weekend dedicated to bringing Gold Star families together to recognize the sacrifice of their fallen servicemembers. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Benjamin Harris

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.


In this blog, Heather writes about Gold Star families and how Marines honored them during last weekend's Families United Weekend of Remembrance.

Honoring Gold Star Families

Since World War I, families of servicemembers have been hanging flags in their windows with stars on them to show their support. The flags contain a blue star for each family member currently serving in a conflict. If a family member dies as a result of a conflict, the blue star becomes a gold star and the family becomes a "Gold Star Family."

I remember my mother telling me about Gold Star families when I was a child. We were not at war at the time so she was telling me about when her mother had taught her about them during World War II. I remember my mother telling me that just as the flags on veterans' graves are to be respected and honored, if you ever see a Gold Star in a window, know that family has been asked by our nation to make the greatest sacrifice.

When the World War II Memorial was built on the National Mall, a Freedom Wall with 4,000 gold stars was built to represent the more than 400,000 Americans who died during that war. I remember catching my breath and having my eyes fill with tears the first time I saw the Freedom Wall – each of those stars represented 100 families that had lost a loved one in that war. It was (and is) staggering to think about.

Since the beginning of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, more families have become Gold Star families. More than 2,000 of these families  were in the Nation's Capital last weekend for the Families United Weekend of Rememberance. The families attended a banquet, visited Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia and played at Six Flags America in Maryland.

Marines from Marine Barracks Washington volunteered to help at the various events, reported Marine Lance Cpl. Benjamin Harris in his Marines News story, "Gold Star Families treated to Weekend in Washington."

Marine Lance Cpl. Teddrick Johnson said he volunteered because of his family's history with the Corps. "There's a tradition of Support," Johnson told Cpl. Harris. "I do this because I know that if something happens to me, there will be Marines who will come support my family."

Gold Star father Robert Derga, whose son Marine Cpl. Dustin Derga, died in Iraq in 2005, was proud to tell Harris about his son. "I'm very proud Dustin is part of that legacy," Derga told Harris. Dustin served with Company L, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment.

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