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What Does That Gold Star Mean?

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New England members of Gold Star Wives of America. Pictured with Freeport flag Ladies, JoAnn, Carmen and Elaine are Maureen Cabral, Boston, MA chapter, Nancy Gunn, Freeport, Me., New England president, Najla Purcell of Lowell chapter and Sandra Dolby Taylor of Saco, president of Dirigo chapter.

That was a question I was asked as I walked along the parade route last year. I could see the acknowledgement on people’s faces after I changed my sign from gold star wives to gold star widows. During WWII families hung banners in their windows with a blue star in the center for each son who was serving. If there was a death that blue star was covered with gold to signify that a son had died. Those banners are restricted to the duration of that war and should not be hung in homes during later wars unless there are others serving.
As we honor our veterans on Memorial Day let us also remember the families that have been shattered by their loss whether recent or decades ago. I have spoken with a local woman who did not know that she should have been receiving medical care from the VA for the past 46 years. Recently I had a call from the widow of a retired military member who did not know that her husband’s death may have been a result of exposure to Agent Orange while in Vietnam. There are widows on Medicare who do not know that there are government insurance plans called Tricare-for-Life and CHAMPVA for-Life that make it unnecessary for them to purchase supplemental plans. Some women lost benefits if they remarried and were told they would never regain any of them so are not aware that if a second marriage has ended by death or divorce they may be eligible to have some very important benefits reinstated. The law also says that if a military widow is over age 57 years that she can remarry and keep some important benefits. There are also assistance programs called Aid & Assistance and Housebound. These ladies could be your mother, aunt, or next door neighbors who fell through the cracks after she no longer had contact with military affairs. If you know someone who was married to an active military member when he died or to a veteran who had a 100% VA rating when he died, please ask her to check her status by contacting someone who can assist her.  Too often widows don’t get complete benefits because they failed to ask the proper questions or were too overwhelmed at the time to absorb all the facts that are given to them. We put them in touch with benefits advisors associated with one of the veteran service organizations or with Gold Star Wives. There is a great new nationwide program in place called Survivor Assistance Program. (SOS)  Maine coordinator Mary O’Mara is available to advise and assist military survivors of any age or duration. Fortunately there are good programs now that provide information about benefits, education, counseling and more to our military members and survivors. To reach Ms. O’Mara in Augusta call: 207-626-4401.
If you are a veteran with a 100% VA disability rating make sure your family and funeral director know because death payments are different for a service connected death. No longer does it have to be an active duty death to qualify your spouse for gold star status.
All Vietnam veterans are encouraged to have body scans at the VA facility even if they have no visible signs of Agent Orange related illness. More diseases have been
added in recent years to the list that are Agent Orange related so if you are a VV who thinks your health problems are not related you may be doing your family a disservice
if you do not get a determination.

For More Information:

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Telephone Number: (402) 553-7423

Website: http://www.greenphilanthropyforfamilies.org

Email: hdeffenbacher@cox.net