By By Tracy RobillardJune 1, 2010
Back during World War II, a small group of women met in a living room to lend support to those whose husbands were killed in the line of duty. Now 65 years later, that small group has become the Gold Star Wives of America, standing 10,000-strong with 60 chapters across America.
The Gold Star Wives celebrated 65 years of service, support and friendship Thursday at the nation's Capitol, with special guests including Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, his wife Deborah, along with several Congressmen, and more than 100 military spouses, families and friends.
"For all the Gold Star Wives who are here, all the family members who have lost someone - they have paid the ultimate sacrifice," Mullen said. "From my perspective, you have a continuing commitment to never, ever forget that sacrifice... What's important is that we sustain that love, devotion, passion and remembrance for as long as we live."
The fallen warriors of the Gold Star Wives come from all branches of service, to include the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard.
"Everyone here has lost someone they love - everyone has been there," said Katherine Frazer, Gold Star Wives national president. "It doesn't matter what rank, color or creed; we have all suffered loss."
Frazer's late husband, Army pilot Lt. Col. Elson B. Oakley, was killed in 1969 in a plane crash in Bangkok, Thailand. Though his death was several decades ago, she has actively been a member of the Gold Star Wives for 11 years. She said the best thing about being a Gold Star Wife is the comradery, support and the opportunity to meet people.
As a Congressional chartered, non-profit organization, Gold Star Wives' primary mission is to provide service, support and friendship to the widows and widowers of military personnel who died on active duty or as the result of a service-connected cause. The group advocates legislation to improve benefits received by service widows and widowers. They also educate group members in understanding and obtaining the benefits provided by Congress.
For more information on Gold Star Wives, including how to join, visit www.goldstarwives.org.
Check out additional photos from this event featuring Adm. Mullen at www.JCS.mil