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What Does It Mean To Be A Gold Star?

The Gold Star designation has a long history dating back to World War I. Family members would wear black armbands with a Gold Star to represent a loved one who had died at war. 

In A Brief History of Gold Star Mothers and Family’s Day by author Abigail Carey1, she writes, “The stars would later find their way to being displayed on banners that were hung in windows or front doors.”

The Gold Star would represent a fallen loved one, while a Blue Star would represent a loved one still serving. You could tell by the number of stars on the banner how many had been lost or were serving from each family. 

The American Gold Star Mothers nonprofit organization was founded in 1928 and now has Chapters throughout the United States. The American Gold Star Mothers organization, albeit a blessing to those it serves, is not a membership any mother would want. 

Gold Star Mother Kathy Wagner, President of the Gulf Coast Chapter of Gold Star Mothers Organization, lost her son, Navy PO2 Herman Fred Bolte IV, while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. She shares her experience with the Gold Star Designation. 

“I had no idea what Gold Star Mothers was. I learned about the organization when I visited a local restaurant, Frankie’s Patriot BBQ in Clearwater (now closed), owned by Gold Star Family Toni and Craig Gross, who had lost their son, Cpl. Frank Gross in Afghanistan in 2011.” 

Wagner says she was taken back by all the military and patriotic memorabilia on the restaurant walls, and learned what it meant to be a Gold Star Mother during a meeting with the Gross Family. 

Kathy is a woman who has experienced loss not once but twice, having lost her 18-year-old son, Jeffrey, to murder; only to lose her other son, ‘Bud’ (Herman Fred Bolte IV), to homicide just two years later while he served his country in Iraq. 

In her LinkedIn profile Kathy says, “Nothing matches the excruciating pain of loss, and no one really knows that pain but you, so where then do you go?”

She then reminds us all to “not get lost in your loss” and shares her personal experiences in an ongoing book series called The Next Day Came Trilogy that can be found online under the author’s name, K.D. Wagner, MA2

For Kathy, it was the murder of her son while he served; for the Gross Family, a roadside IED, but the loss can come in many different forms. 

Tanya Mort, mother to Sgt. Anthony Muhlstadt, received the call no mother wants with news that her son Anthony had taken his own life. It was November 19, 2021, and Anthony was 23 years old and stationed at Marine Corps Base Twenty-nine Palms in California. 

Gold Star represents loss without consideration to place or time of military service and does not consider whether the circumstances of death involve hostile conflict or not. Mothers of service members missing in action are also welcomed into the Gold Star Family. 

America’s Gold Star mothers and families are to be cherished and honored beyond measure as they have given the ultimate sacrifice for our country. They have given their sons and daughters. These are not people who expect anything but give everything to help others, raise awareness, and find ways to honor and remember their loved ones. 

Most Gold Star mothers and families continue to serve throughout their communities through volunteerism, support, and events that raise funds and awareness for the battles still being fought. One such battle at the forefront of many Gold Star family hearts is the ongoing loss of service members and veterans to suicide. 

In 2023, Jean Uffalussy, Vice President of the Gulf Coast Gold Star Mothers Organization, who lost her son Patrick in a devastating fire in Herat during Operation Enduring Freedom, held the first-annual Love Remembrance Walk in Pasco County, Florida. The event raised over $3,000 for Mission 22, a nonprofit organization, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. 

Gold Star Mom Tanya Mort held the first-annual Anthony Muhlstadt Defender Ruck Walk this summer in St. Petersburg and raised over $22,000 for the Stop Soldier Suicide Organization. The event was held in June to commemorate Anthony’s Birthday.

Many other amazing Gold Star mothers and families continue to work within our communities to support other families, active-duty service members, law enforcement, and other first responders. 

Kelly Kowell, Founder of My Warrior’s Place in Ruskin, Florida, lost her son, Army Spc. Corey J. Kowell, on September 20, 2009. She honors his memory daily by “Giving the gift of hope and healing to those who keep us safe, secure, and free!”

My Warrior’s Place is a beloved retreat center for veterans, military service members, law enforcement, firefighters, Gold Star, Blue Star, and Silver Star families. 

Want to know how can you help, honor, and support the missions carried on each day by these incredible Americans? Visit–departments.html to find the contact information for your local chapter! 


1Carey, Abigail, Army Public Affairs Fellow. (2022, September 25). A Brief History of Gold Star Mothers and Family’s Day.  Arlington National Cemetery Blog.

2Wagner, KD, MA. The Next Day Came Trilogy: Book One: Jeffrey-The Injustice of Murder, Book Two: Bud – Homicide Turns a Blue Star Gold, and Book Three: Kathy-Survive Tragic Loss with Limitless Resilience. Gold Star Matrix I, Inc., January 1, 2023.


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