Staff SGT Donald Wayne West, Jr., enlisted in the United States Army National Guard on September 11, 2001. As part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Company A of the 150th Combat Engineers served active duty Aug 29, 2004, until Dec 30, 2005. SSGT West returned to college in January, 2006. He married Lauren Ritchie June 9, 2006, at Seaside, Fla., and they have three children. SSGT West completed military service at Camp Minden, LA on Aug 23, 2009.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Day 247 - American Gold Star Mother's Day

I'll never forget a moment last December standing with Wayne in front of St. Luke's Episcopal Church looking at the massive cedar tree decked with 24 red ribbons and three yellow ribbons.

"What's the difference between the red ones and the yellow ones?" he asked.

"The names on the red ribbons represent soldiers from Arkansas who have died in Iraq," I answered. "Your name is on a yellow ribbon."

President Bush has proclaimed this Sunday National Gold Star Mothers' Day to honor America’s fallen heroes.

Gold star mothers came into general use with the creation of service flags, usually hung in the front window of a home. Blue star flags showed a family had a son in the service. A gold star covering the blue star showed a son died in the service. Mothers of slain servicemen came to be known as gold star mothers.

Although the phrase is sometimes capitalized, this is incorrect because it is not the proper name of any organization.
Through customary usage, the phrase has come to designate any mother whose child has been lost in war. Similarly, blue star mother designates someone like me, whose son or daughter is actively serving in the military.

A group of gold star mothers met in 1928 to organize American Gold Star Mothers, Inc.,(AGSM). As non-profit organization, AGSM does not engage in political or lobbying activities. Members may express their personal, but these opinions are not those of AGSM. The organization takes no position on political issues, but does support our military and has many activities that reflect that support.

The President’s proclamation requests United States Government officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings, and the people of the United States to display the flag and hold appropriate meetings at homes, churches, or other suitable places, on Gold Star Mother’s Day as a public expression of the love, sorrow, and reverence of the people for Gold Star Mothers.

“America's Gold Star Mothers carry a great burden of grief,” says the President, “yet they show a tremendous spirit of generosity in helping their fellow citizens. With kindness and understanding, they support members of our Armed Forces and their families, provide vital services to veterans, help to educate young people about good citizenship and our Nation's founding ideals, and bring comfort to many in need. We commend these proud women for their compassion, commitment, and patriotism, and our Nation will always honor them for their sacrifice and service.”