At a City Council meeting last month, the director of Veterans Affairs for the City of Glen Cove, Tony Jimenez, announced that City Hall’s wall of honor, which features photographs of locals who served in the military, would be split into two — one for active duty service members, and one for “Gold Star” members, those who died during their service.
The change is necessary, Jimenez said, because it is not appropriate to lump together active service members, veterans who have returned home, and those who died while serving.
Going forward, each of these groups will be honored separately, as military tradition dictates. Photos of those currently serving will remain under the Blue Star flag, a symbol designed by military families during World War I; photos of service members who died on active duty will be featured on a second wall, under a Gold Star flag, designed around the same time; the city will keep a running scrapbook of people who have retired from the military and returned home.
Keeping these distinctions in mind is important, according to David Hubbard, who spent three years in the early 1970s as a computer programmer working on the country’s nuclear missile defense facilities, and now serves as Commander of the Young-Simmons American Legion post in Glen Cove.
For military families, the Blue and Gold Star flags are “a silent way of letting people know” what the family is going through. For Blue Star families, it’s a symbol of pride, but it’s also an invitation. “People walking by their homes might notice the banner and say, ‘Thank you for your family’s sacrifice.’ That might make them feel a little better.”
Having a loved one in active duty can be a lonely experience, Hubbard said, adding that it’s often hard or awkward to bring it up to civilian families. He added that parents of active duty members tend to “keep close tabs” on their children’s movements and activities oversees, at least as much as they can.
Hubbard said that for many parents, that distance is a heavy burden, that talking to friends about it can be “good medicine,” and that hanging a Blue Star flag is one way to make those conversations happen.
Gold Star families, Jimenez said, need an entirely different kind of support. “It’s the recognition of the sacrifice that family made for our country” he said. “In your heart,” he continued, “you just support them, without necessarily doing something obvious.”
Sometimes, simple gratitude can help those who’s relatives have died in the service. When Hubbard sees a Gold Star flag, he said, it makes him more sensitive to what the family might be going through.
At the April City Council meeting, the Young-Simmons post donated a Gold Star flag to the city. “It’s a program that we cherish,” Hubbard said. That’s why he and Jimenez have pushed to keep the Blue Star wall and the Gold Star wall separate: to make sure that military families are honored and supported the way they should be.