FORT LEE, Va. – When I was a teenager, I spent an inordinate amount of time staring out of windows, over the water, into the distance, up at the sky – just pensive moments when I pondered my place in the world.
I was prone to feeling overwhelmed by minuscule problems, so contemplating the vastness of the universe comforted me by making my worldly worries seem insignificant.
My favorite place to ponder was outside at night. I’d lay on a blanket in the grass and gaze intently at the stars, looking for patterns, movement and twinkling lights. On clear nights, there seemed to be billions of them, each so bright against the black vacuum of space.
Since my teen years, I don’t stop to ponder the universe so much anymore. When I do gaze up at the night sky, I don’t see as many stars as I used to. Perhaps the light pollution of urban sprawl has obscured my view. More likely, the complications of modern life have made it difficult to see the universe as clearly as I did when I was a teenager.
Sept. 29 is Gold Star Mothers and Families Day. The ancestry of the observance starts with the formation of the Gold Star Mothers organization in 1928 by Grace Darling Seibold after her son, a Soldier assigned to the British Royal Flying Corps in WWI, was declared deceased while in combat. Seibold formed a group that would support grieving mothers and provide comfort to hospitalized veterans. “Gold star” is a reference to the stars on service flags hung in families’ windows during WWI, a practice that continues in many communities today. A blue star on a service flag indicates a family member enlisted in the service; a gold star indicates a loved one has died while serving.
In 1936, Congress passed a resolution designating the last Sunday in September as “Gold Star Mother’s Day,” revering these mothers as “the greatest source of the country’s strength and inspiration.” In 2012, then President Barack Obama issued a proclamation expanding the observance to include families. And in 2018, the current president’s proclamation confirmed Gold Star Mothers and Families Day as a time to “support them as they supported our country by selflessly sharing their loved ones for the noble cause of freedom.”
The observance doesn’t always get the national recognition it deserves. It can get lost in the clutter of National Chocolate Milk Day, National Crush a Can Day, National Corned Beef Hash Day, National Scarf Day, National Drink Beer Day, National Good Neighbor Day, National Strawberry Cream Pie Day, National Hunting and Fishing Day, National Family Health and Fitness Day, National Ghost Hunting Day, National North Carolina Day, National Public Lands Day, Save Your Photos Day, and National Coffee Day – all end-of-September observances.
The social media marketing boom of the last two decades has ignited an explosion of “public holidays” created by businesses, non-profits, greeting card companies, politicians, attention-seekers and college kids. Thousands of events have been “registered” simply by submitting a free form to Chase’s Calendar of Events, which boasts the most comprehensive and authoritative reference on worldwide holidays and observances.
This “holiday pollution” might be fun and profitable, but we can’t let it obscure our focus on observances with national and historical importance. The gilt symbol of Gold Star Mothers and Families Day is bright for a reason. It is meant to shine so the public sees “the honor and glory accorded the person for his or her supreme sacrifice in offering for this country; the last full measure of devotion and pride of the family in this sacrifice, rather than the sense of personal loss,” according to American Gold Star Mothers Inc.
On Sunday, let’s all take the time to put aside the many obscurities of modern life, turn off our televisions and put our digital devices to sleep. Walk outside or look out a window, and gaze up at the night sky. Ponder the vastness of our universe, contemplate the ever shining stars, and be grateful for those who paid the supreme sacrifice of motherhood so that we can be free.
Here are some links for those interested in exploring this topic further: www.goldstarmoms.com, www.dodlive.mil/2017/09/22/gold-star-mothers-day-who-they-are-what-its-all-about and www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/presidential-proclamation-gold-star-mothers-familys-day-2018.