JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas — The Air Force family tree has many branches and one branch, representing the service’s Gold Star families, has leaves that glow consistently with the rest.
Gold Star families are survivors of military service members who lost their lives during armed hostilities, including deployments in support of military operations against an enemy and/or during an international terrorist attack.
The Air Force’s Gold Star program provides enhanced support and outreach for the lifetime of each survivor, or until the survivor no longer needs or desires the services. The program is designed to let families know the Air Force cares for them and will continue to embrace them as part of the Air Force family.
“Our primary purpose is to continue recognizing and honoring the sacrifice these families and their loved ones made in the service of our nation,” said Vera Carson, Air Force Families Forever program manager at the Air Force Personnel Center. “Gold Star families fall under the Air Force Families Forever program, which ensures all families of our fallen Airmen are never forgotten.”
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein directed the provision of additional lifelong support to Gold Star families in April 2017. Gold Star family members, such as parents, adult children, and siblings, are now being offered the opportunity to receive a Gold Star identification card, which authorizes access to Air Force bases in the continental U.S., Alaska and Hawaii. For additional information, contact your Air Force Families Forever representative at the local airman and family readiness center.
By allowing these families unescorted access to Air Force installations, they can visit their loved one’s gravesite, attend memorials and base-wide events, and stop by the local airman and family readiness center for immediate and long-term compassionate support.
“General Goldfein and his wife, Dawn, want to ensure our Gold Star families remain a part of the Air Force family, and this special ID card is helping us make that happen,” said Carla Diamond, Air Force Gold Star, and Surviving Family Member representative. “We are reaching out to surviving family members, establishing contact and ensuring that their needs are met.”
One resource for survivors is the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. This program provides emotional support and healing to anyone grieving the death of a military loved one. The staff provides military survivor seminars, Good Grief Camps for young survivors, peer mentors, and resources relating to grief and trauma.
Taking care of each Airman’s family is vital to ensuring an Airman is prepared and mission ready.
“Supporting family members is critical in making sure our Airmen are resilient and ready to meet their mission objectives and serve our nation daily,” said Randy Tillery, Airmen and Family Care director. “The Gold Star program reminds our surviving family members they are still an important part of the greater Air Force family.”
Gold Star families are not new. The term traces back to World War I when Americans would fly a flag with a blue star for every immediate family member serving in the armed forces. The star became gold if the family lost a loved one in the war. Along with the U.S. flag, these family members now receive a lapel pin with a gold star resting on a purple background.
Since 1936, the last Sunday of September is observed as Gold Star Mothers’ and Families’ Day. Air Force officials are now planning events to commemorate the special day.
To reach the Air Force Families Forever program, call (866) 299-0596, or search Facebook for “AF families forever support network.” For more information on tragedy assistance programs, call the 24-hour helpline at (800) 959-2877, or visit www.taps.org.