Maura C. Sullivan is a former U.S. Marine Corps Captain, Iraq War Veteran and graduate of Harvard Business School. She is a Commissioner, American Battle Monuments Commission– managing America’s overseas WWI & WWII cemeteries.
Maura has demonstrated exemplary service to this country, continued commitment to public service, and an unusual breadth of experience. I’m proud to call her a friend.
She’s been in France this week welcoming American families who have traveled to spend Memorial Day honoring their loved ones who died abroad for the cause of freedom in World War II. She shared some of her thoughts with me, and I’m honored to share them with you.
I hope you’ll join me in thanking Maura, our other servicemen and women, and the Gold Star Families today.
I’ve been afforded an incredible honor this year to spend Memorial Day with a Marine Corps “Gold Star” Family at Rhone American Cemetery in France, but I recently realized that many Americans aren’t familiar with the term, Gold Star Family, the honorific we bestow on families when one of their members has died while in uniformed service.
During World War I, families hung banners in their windows with a blue star for each service member. If their service member was killed, they would replace the blue star with gold. The tradition continued in WWII and beyond. Today across America, more than 8,000 families of the Iraq and Afghanistan fallen bear this burden as do countless more from wars dating back to WWII. You can often recognize a Gold Star family member by the simple gold star lapel pin they proudly wear in memory of their loved one.
I am encouraged to see organizations like The American Battle Monuments Commission and The Franco-American Society honoring the sacrifice of our Gold Star Families and ensuring that the legacy of their service is passed down to future generations. They join President Obama, who called upon the nation to honor Gold Star Families by issuing a Presidential Proclamation in 2010 declaring the last Sunday in September to be Gold Star Mothers’ and Families Day. Additionally, The Marines’ Memorial Club in San Francisco hosts an annual Gold Star Parents Honor and Remembrance Weekend and the U.S. Army announced this past February that it will release three public service announcements over the next year to increase awareness of Department of Defense-issued Gold Star and next-of-kin lapel pins
Freedom is not free. Many families paid dearly for it. Let us cherish them this Memorial Day and hold them close to our hearts. If you have the honor of meeting a Gold Star family member, thank them for their sacrifice and perhaps inquire about their loved one who died fulfilling the most fundamental and sacred obligation of our nation.