Last week, at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Khizr and Ghazala Khan, parents of Captain Humayun Khan, a Muslim U.S. soldier killed in Iraq in 2004, appeared in a rebuke to the stated policy proposal of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump that would bar Muslims from entering the United States.
In an op-ed response that followed criticism by Trump that Ghazala Khan didn't say anything during the DNC appearance, Ghazala Khan wrote (emphasis added):
Donald Trump has asked why I did not speak at the Democratic convention. He said he would like to hear from me. Here is my answer to Donald Trump: Because without saying a thing, all the world, all America, felt my pain. I am a Gold Star mother. Whoever saw me felt me in their heart.
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A Gold Star family is one honored by the military for the service of soldier who was killed in action. There are also Silver Star and Blue Star families. Silver Star families are those with a loved one wounded in action. Blue Stars are awarded to relatives with active-duty service members.
Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine wore a pin with the Blue Star during his speech at the Democratic National Convention. The North Carolina Republican Party initially mistook the pin for a Honduras flag when it tweeted that it was "shameful" that the candidate was wearing "a Honduras flag pin on his jacket but no American flag." Kaine was wearing the Blue Star flag in honor of his son, Nat, who is serving in the U.S. Marines and was just deployed to eastern Europe.
The stars refers to the military service flags used by families during times of war or hostilities. Family members authorized to display the flags include spouses, parents, step-parents, adoptive parents, foster parents, children, step-children, adopted children, brothers, sisters, half-brothers and half-sisters.
In terms of the flag's design, as Lt. Col. Karen Castillo with Keesler Air Force Base writes:
The flag itself is a white field with a red border and a blue, silver or gold star. The blue star symbolizes hope and pride, the silver star, gallantry, and the gold star stands for a sacrifice made for honor and freedom.
The flags first became a part of military family tradition during World War I, created by Army Capt. Robert L. Queissner, who had two children serving. Since then, the banners can be seen in the front windows of military households across the country.
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In 1936, the United States began observing Gold Star Mothers' Day. Near the end of World War II, Gold Star Wives formed, and a Gold Star Lapel Button was established in 1947.
Various organizations also bring together relatives of Gold, Silver or Blue Star families. American Gold Star Mothers Inc. is one such group, a veterans service group chartered by Congress in 1984 "to honor our sons and daughters through service -- service to veterans and patriotic events," writes the group on its website.
Gold, Silver and Blue Stars are reminders of the sacrifices shared both by American service members and the people who care about them most.
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