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Blog: Time to Resurrect the 'Silver Star'

Most people know what a Blue Star or Gold Star banner in a window means, but how many know the meaning of a Silver Star? How many have actually seen one?

Silver Star Service Banners are the forgotten banners, not just by the general public, but by our government as well.

The tradition of covering a Blue Star with silver thread began around the end of World War I to denote that family’s soldier had been wounded in war, but when the U.S. Department of Defense codified the dimensions and circumstances under which the blue and gold should be flown, it overlooked the Silver Star. It wasn’t even addressed.

Part of the reason Silver Star banners waned in the years between the first and second world wars is because back in those days, those who lost a limb, hearing or sight were not embraced or even well-tolerated by society. This was an era when children born with physical differences were routinely institutionalized.

Adults who were missing a limb, even when the loss was due to service of our country, were rarely employed and frequently lived out their lives within the confines of the family home, if they were lucky. Many spent the remainder of their lives in Veterans Administration facilities, hospitals or those infamous homes for the disabled. It was a different world back then, one beyond which our society has thankfully evolved.

Though words such as traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were not part of the lexicon back in the day, the realities of those conditions were known. I remember a great-uncle who served in WWII whom the family referred to as "just different since the war." I also have a cousin who served in Vietnam who slept under his bed for weeks after he came home.

When we went to his family’s house for a visit, we younger children were strictly admonished not to make too much noise and were absolutely forbidden to make loud, sudden noises, particularly if he was sleeping, something he did at all hours of the day and night for the first many months he was home. He was said to have had "a bad war," as if there were such a thing as a good war.

Advertising their soldier was home but somehow damaged was not something most wanted to proclaim to casual passers-by for too many years. Of course, neighbors knew and could sometimes be supportive, but there was often a dose of pity mixed with that support. Well-meaning friends and even family members would suggest that it might be better, kinder, to send that soldier somewhere he "could be taken care of."

Thankfully, times have changed. As a society, we no longer automatically look upon a physical difference as a negative. This societal shift is critical, as we have more soldiers than ever before returning home with injuries that would have been fatal in previous wars.

Thanks to advances in medical technologies, personnel protective gear and the swiftness with which injured soldiers are transported from the battlefield to life-saving medical facilities, families who would have once been handed a folded flag, now get to fold their arms around their loved ones.

It is in recognition of these changing times that the Silver Star Service Banner is being revived. The Silver Star Families of America, www.silverstarfamilies.org, is on the forefront of bringing recognition to the issues and challenges families
face when their wounded hero is brought home. In addition to providing the
banners, and raising public awareness of the existence, meaning and honor of
the Silver Star banner, they also acknowledge those who assist the
wounded, ill or dying service members.

Still, the general public is more familiar with the image, name and logo of the Wounded Warrior Project. This group is a direct service organization whose mission is “To Honor and empower wounded warriors.”

They do this by offering a variety of programs that address the needs of the mind and body of the wounded, recognizing that these individuals were warriors and often need a way to physically challenge themselves even though they may not be able to participate in the same activities in the same was as they once did.

But that is just one part of their mission. They also offer peer mentoring, something those who are lying in a hospital bed with catastrophic, life-altering injuries have credited as a turning point on their path to recovery. Economic empowerment through education is one of the tools they use to offer these wounded heroes hope for a secure financial future for themselves and their families.

The most significant and long-range programs they have are those in the policy and government realm, giving a voice to the wounded and their families in local and national legislative issues, as well as a benefit services outreach that connects existing government programs and community resources to those whom these services are meant to help.

While the organization often partners with other groups for fundraisers, such as the 5K run in Plainfield being organized by Operation Welcome You Home on May 26, they also take donations and have a mechanism on their website for those who want and are able to provide direct financial support. The Silver Star Families of America accepts direct donations through their Web site and a variety of fundraising activities.

There are those who say it is the military’s responsibility to care for the needs of these injured soldiers. Of course, I agree with that sentiment. But some will counter by saying these men and women knew the risks when they signed on the dotted line, and therefore it's not the government's responsibility to support these and other military support groups and charities.

I guess I’ve heard that one time too many, because it is something that can send me into a not-very-nice tirade. I try, but from the look of shock and embarrassment on peoples’ faces, I know I’m failing to be civil and understanding in my response.

My stock answer, depending on how clueless, merely uninformed, cruel or downright rude the attitude of the other person, is usually along the lines of “they were injured in defense of your right to have and voice that opinion. The least you can do is say, 'Thank You,' and honor their sacrifice.”

To those who say, “Well, I don’t support the war and I won’t support those who do,” I offer them a one-way ticket out of this country, saying it is my opinion their attitude disqualifies them for the rights, protections and freedoms they enjoy and that were bought and paid for, in blood, by those whom they refuse to support.

I tell them I’ll even help them pack.

On May 26, you can show your support by coming out to participate in or watch the Wounded Warrior Project 5K Walk/Run. I’ll be there as a walker. I just hope to get to the finish line before everyone has gone home.

You can also click on the links above and either donate or find another event in which to participate.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

connie johnson May 22, 2012 at 01:44 PM
What a great organization, it is about time!
Jerry May 22, 2012 at 05:32 PM
Great article. As the enemies' weapon of choice, the IED, takes more limbs and medical technology has improved to the point where traumatic amputees can live full and productive lives, I can only hope that these brave men and women will come to wear their prostheses as the badges of honor they truly are. One thing is confusing me a little...you refer to "the links above" but the only link I see is to the Silver Star Families organization. Should there have been additional links?
Denise Williams May 23, 2012 at 02:52 AM
Connie and Jerry, thanks for the comments and the support. Jerry, sorry for the confusion, the second website is www.WoundedWarriorProject.org

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