Flawed Gold Star Access Bill Ignores Some Surviving Families
On the surface, a proposal making its way through Congress that would create a standard system for families of some fallen troops to access military bases seems like a great way to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
The Gold Star Family Support and Installation Access Act of 2017 allows installation access so that families can visit gravesites and attend memorial events, as well as accessing other benefits they are eligible to receive.
The act was introduced on October 2, 2017 and passed the House with 89 bipartisan cosponsors.
The problem is who “some fallen troops” excludes: those who are killed in training accidents, those who died by suicide or those who died from a medical emergency outside deployment. It only applies to the families of troops who were killed in combat or by terrorists.
While the surviving spouse and children of any military member killed in service, regardless of where or how they die, are eligible for military survivor benefits, the term “Gold Star” is a specific designation set by law.
Tragic death and loss are a fact of military life, and no matter what the circumstances are, surviving family members should be treated the same.
The Gold Star first made an appearance during World War I after being placed over a service flag’s blue star when a service member was killed in combat. The Gold Star signified the family’s pride in the loved one’s sacrifice rather than the mourning of their personal loss.
In 1947, Congress authorized the military to present a gold star lapel pin to the family members of those killed in action. It was a simple gold star on a purple background with a laurel wreath around the star. Another pin, a gold star with a gold background and four oak sprigs around the star, was authorized in 1973.