Right in the middle of our commemoration of the Civil War and the bicentennial of The War of 1812, we find ourselves thinking of still another conflict, one largely lost to history.
The centennial of World War I is fast approaching. While we have historical reminders that attach to other conflicts – Gettysburg, the Star Spangled Banner, D-Day – World War I evokes fewer such milestones.
U.S. soldiers fought for the first time overseas in WWI. While that might be pretty obvious, the British, French and Germans had been in the trenches for four years before the U.S. came ashore.
The glory of marching off to war was soon replaced by carnage on an unprecedented level. As in all wars, it was the wives and mothers that stepped into the fray to offer counsel, care for the sick and wounded, and provide unwavering strength throughout.
It was a mother during World War I who founded Gold Star Mothers, an organization that provides support for mothers who have lost a son or daughter to combat. Grace Seibold waited anxiously for word from her son, George Seibold, as he flew missions over Europe for the British.
George was so anxious to join the fray that he signed up in Canada to fight on the Allied side. In the beginning, his letters came frequently, but then stopped suddenly. Fearing the worst, Grace turned to the U.S. government to find out what happened.
Unfortunately, because George was a member of another country’s military, there was little that could be done on her behalf. One day, there was a knock on the door, the knock that so many family members fear, and George’s effects were given to the family.
Grace channeled her grief into the work that she was already doing for the wounded and put her enormous energy into building an organization of mothers who made it their mission to give comfort to one another and to wounded soldiers.
The Gold Star refers to the tradition of hanging a blue star in the window for a soldier serving and a gold star for those who have made the supreme sacrifice.
These mothers took up the cause of the gold star and a century later, Gold Star Mothers are still going strong, providing care that is so desperately needed. We honor those mothers on this Gold Star Mother’s Day and hope that when we see a banner with a star, it is a blue star. But if instead we see a gold star, we know that there are mothers that will step up to comfort the family.
While World War I may not have its Valley Forge or Battle of the Bulge, it laid claim to something more timeless and ultimately more valuable, the claim of a mother’s love for her son or daughter, a love that doesn’t have any bounds.
Grace Seibold found another 20 or so other military mothers. They, in turn, found still more. When word got out that there was an organization that bound these mothers to one another, the result was a national organization whose membership changes with each conflict while its mission remains the same – caring for the wounded and their families, and honoring their departed loved ones.