"Gold Star Mother's Day" is observed each year on the last Sunday in September.The intent is to publicly recognize those who bear the burden of the ultimate sacrifices made by our service members-- their sons and daughters-- in support of our nation.The gold star has officially been recognized as a symbol of loss since 1918.Throughout the First World War, families would hang blue service stars in their windows to indicate that their loved ones were serving in the war effort. By 1918, it had become common practice to pin the gold star over the blue star to indicate that a service member had died.During World War II, more than 16 million people served in the war effort overseas, and most of the country supported the war effort through rationing, victory gardens, war bonds and other public displays of support.Only 2.5 million service members have deployed during the war on terror, less than 1 percent of the American population. While service flags and gold stars can be readily found in windows in residential areas on and near military installations, it's rare to see them in mainstream America.To help raise awareness, the Army recently produced a series of public service announcements describing the significance of the gold star. Two of the three television ads have been released so far this year, broadcast primarily on Fox Sports channels and at major sporting events. The third will be released during the Association of the United States Army's annual convention in Washington, D.C., next month.The public awareness campaign was created to expand awareness efforts beyond just the single day recognizing gold star mothers.The Army, recognizing that families who have paid the ultimate sacrifice deserve our respect, gratitude and the very best we can provide, created survivor outreach services to provide long-term support services and family case management for surviving families. A program in the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Services Directorate of the Installation Management Command, it is integral to the Army's support system for survivors."Our support service coordinators and financial counselors are dedicated to helping survivors from all eras understand -- and apply for -- the benefits they're entitled to," said Hal Snyder, chief of the Wounded and Fallen Support Services Office at the Installation Management Command. "We also help them stay connected to the Army family for as long as they desire."Survivor Outreach Services, a program in the Wounded and Fallen Support Services Office, supports more than 55,900 surviving military family members and is spearheading the effort to raise awareness through the PSAs."Educating the public on the meaning behind the gold star pins is simply another way to reaffirm that we honor and understand the sacrifices they've made for our country," Snyder said.