In recognition of May as National Military Appreciation Month, the MGH Military Veterans Partners group (MGH MVP) is honoring Gold Star families with a Fallen Warrior table display outside Eat Street Café through May 29. The U.S. Department of Defense issues Gold Star lapel pins –featuring a gold star on a purple circular background – to immediate family of service members killed in the line of duty.

“You may have seen it as a pin, license plate or flag but for the families, the sacrifice and loss are the same,” says Angela Wynder, RN, BSN, of MGH Case Management and co-founder and president of the MVP. “Each of these families had a family member that did not return home and gave the ultimate sacrifice. It is a long-standing military tradition during celebrations or holidays to set a table to honor those servicemen and women who were killed in action, who are prisoners of war and for those listed as missing in action. They are unable to be with us, so we remember them through the many symbols at this table.”

According to Christine Cugini, of MGH Development and a member of MVP, the history of the Gold Star dates back to World War I, when families would display a flag with a blue star for every member of their family serving in the armed forces. The blue star was covered with a gold star if the service member was killed or was injured and subsequently died from those injuries. Gold Star Mothers was organized in 1929, and Gold Star Wives began before the end of World War II.

Margaret Caldwell, RN, staff nurse at the MGH and Gold Star Wife, whose husband Sgt. Charles Caldwell was killed in Iraq in 2003, says it is important for people to know the meaning behind the gold star. “One thing I think people don’t understand about gold star families is that grief triggers are everywhere,” Caldwell says. “It’s not just birthdays and Christmas that are hard, but also Memorial Day, Veterans Day and especially July 4. Those who know my story can’t understand how hard July 4 is for me. People are celebrating freedom – Gold Star Families know what freedom costs in actual terms. Listening to the national anthem brings me to tears. I hope the American people appreciate their freedoms. July 4 isn’t just about backyard barbecues.” 

The MGH will honor Caldwell along with other Gold Star family members as part of its tribute:

Kelly Reed, Gold Star Mother
Son Ethan Louis Goncalo, Afghanistan, 2010

Amanda Woitowicz, Gold Star Family member
Brother William Woitowicz, 2011.

Victoria Baron, Gold Star Family member
Nephew PFC Paul Conlon, Afghanistan, 2008

Kate Miley, Gold Star Family member
Brother-in-law Scott Miley, 2010

Jean Pijanowski, Gold Star Family member
Brother George Gottawald, Vietnam,1968

Linda Mae Small, Gold Star Family member
Uncle Wallace Leonard Oldford, Army Air Corp, WWII

Heather Johnson Nartowicz, Gold Star Family member
Uncle, Vietnam

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Read more articles from the 05/26/17 Hotline issue.