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Gold Star Mothers Now Have Flags to Fly

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 1, 2003 – The American Gold Star Mothers finally got something they've wanted for years: their own gold star flags to fly under the American flag at the organization's headquarters on Embassy Row here.

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American Gold Star Mothers is a nonprofit, federally chartered organization for mothers who have lost sons or daughters in service to the United States.

Lewis told the banquet guests he visits the Gold Star Mothers' headquarters often to help them in any way he can. "I noticed that something was missing," said Lewis, who retired in December 1997 at nearby Andrews Air Force Base, Md., where he worked at Air Force Systems Command headquarters.

"This single gold star flag represents a son or a daughter," said the former manpower and personnel specialist who served in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969. "One star represents one child. It will be flown on the flagpole under the American flag in front of the American flag at Gold Star Mothers headquarters.

"They had a banner that was hung in a window, but they hadn't had a flag since they moved into their headquarters in 1957," Lewis continued. "So I decided to give them one during American Gold Star Mothers weekend." President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed the last Sunday in September as "Gold Star Mothers Day" on Sept. 14, 1940. The day was proclaimed for the nation to express its love, sorrow and reverence for mothers who lost sons and daughters in World War I. Today, the observance includes mothers from all wars, including the global war on terrorism. The flag with five gold stars honors the parents of the five Sullivan brothers who lost their lives when enemy torpedoes sunk the USS Juneau in November 1942. Only 10 of the 550 men aboard survived. Two of the brothers had served previous four-year enlistments in the Navy when all five brothers enlisted together on Jan. 3, 1942. Their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas F. Sullivan, lived in Waterloo, Iowa.

Excerpts from a poem Lewis read to the audience called Gold Star Mothers "people who specialize in doing thoughtful deeds."

The poem goes on to say, "They understand your problems and your needs. They help because they want to. They find joy in being kind and making others happy is the first thing on their minds. They make this world a better place by practicing the art of reaching out to others and by giving from the heart."

Lewis operates a fleet of 10- and 20-passenger airplanes that transport people and cargo and fly emergency evacuation missions in southern California.

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Gold Star Mothers Meet in Washington

Click photo for screen-resolution imageThe five Sullivan Brothers on board USS Juneau (CL-52) at the time of the ship's commissioning ceremonies at the New York Navy Yard on Feb. 14, 1942. All were lost with the ship following the Nov. 13, 1942, Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. The brothers were (from left to right) Joseph, Francis, Albert, Madison and George Sullivan. Photo courtesy of U.S. Naval Historical Center  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageEd Chow, national vice president, Vietnam Veterans of America, and Gold Star Mother Sara McVicker, a nurse in Vietnam, hold up the one-gold- star flag that was presented to the American Gold Star Mothers by retired Air Force Master Sgt. Ronald L. Lewis, chairman of Antelope Air, Inc., of Palmdale, Calif. The flag was one of two Lewis presented to the organization at its annual banquet in Washington on Sept. 27. Photo by Rudi Williams  
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