What is a Gold Star Family?

What is a Gold Star Family?

What is a Gold Star Family?

I would be willing to wager a small sum that until the Democratic National Convention last month most contemporary citizens of the United States of America had never heard of a Gold Star Family. Until the father of United States Army Captain Humayun Khan took the stage to tell his story, the phrase Gold Star Family was not familiar to the Kardashian Generation. Army Captain Humayun Khan was killed by an improvised explosive device (ied), while inspecting a guard post, on June 8, 2004 near Baqubah, Iraq.

The instant Captain Khan died his mother, his father and his siblings became a Gold Star Family.

Military.com shares the following:

If you have a family member who lost their life while in combat you may be entitled to the “Gold Star Lapel Pin “.

Public Law 534 – 89th Congress, directs the design and distribution of a lapel button, to the known as the “Gold Star Lapel Pin,” to identify widows, parents and next of kin of members of the Armed Forces of the United States who lost their lives;

After June 30, 1958
while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States;
while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force;
while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict in which the United States is not a belligerent party against an opposing armed force.*

Gold Star Lapel pins worn by the family of the fallen.
Gold Star Lapel pins worn by the family of the fallen.

I am a Blue Star Mother. I did not choose to be a Blue Star Mother. My son chose this title for me when he commissioned in the United States Army. I am very proud of him and his service. Through Blue Star Mothers of America, I have had the honor and privilege to get to know close to a dozen Gold Star Families.

Gold Star Families are all very different. As different as the children they raised to become heroes. While Captain Khan’s father has taken a political position, most Gold Star Families only want their heroes remembered. The Gold Star Families want their child’s name said aloud, their stories told, their sacrifice remembered.

Today, at the Blount County Library, in East Tennessee, at the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, a bust of Sergeant Michael Ferschke, Jr., United States Marine Corps, was unveiled. Sergeant Ferschke, died on August 10, 2008 in Iraq. He left behind his mother, his father, his siblings, his wife Hota, his unborn son and his brother Marines.

Sergeant Michael H. Ferschke, Jr.
Sergeant Michael H. Ferschke, Jr.
The banner welcoming guests to the unveiling ceremony
The banner welcoming guests to the unveiling ceremony

So, many astonishing aspects to this day. There were well over 200 people packed in the library atrium just for the ceremony. After eight years! Close to a dozen (12) Marine brothers who trained, served and fought with Sergeant Ferschke were in tiny little Blount County. After eight years! The raw emotions felt by all. No. That part was not astonishing.

As the daughter of a Marine, I know one thing for sure. Marines love to tell stories. Marines love to tell stories on other Marines.

Michael Ferschke wasn’t just a Marine. Michael Ferschke was a Force Recon Marine. Think of Navy Seals, but even more kick butt. No, really. Force Recon Marines are legend.

Staff Sergeant Chris Sanchez trained Michael Ferschke to be a Force Reconnaissance Marine and then served beside him. Through tears, he talked about his friend and fellow Marine. Then, Sanchez recited the Force Recon Creed.

force recon creed

Mr. Sanchez also played a voicemail that Sergeant Ferschke had left on his parents’ machine. Chastising his folks for not picking up the phone, Marine Ferschke was proud that he was doing what he had trained to do part of something larger than himself.

The day he died, Sergeant Ferschke took point (the lead) in the last mud hut that needed to be breached and cleared (get in and eliminate threats). The second Marine in spoke at the ceremony. Because Ferschke took point, this Marine was alive. Alive to graduate college, marry his love and give his son the middle name of Michael.

Gunnery Sergeant Rogers was recording the day’s activities. He, eight years later, remembers 17:35. Seventeen thirty five was the local time that Sergeant Ferschke was killed in action. To us civilians, 17:35 is 5:35 p.m. Iraq time. That would have been 11:35 East Tennessee time. Eight years later, Gunny Rogers remembers calling in the time and coordinates.

I watched the other Marines in the audience as each speaker told his story. Even if I had never seen a “thousand yard stare” before, I would have recognized it. The Marines’ bodies were still in East Tennessee, but their minds, emotions and souls were training, shooting or breaching and clearing.

The U.S. Marine Corps flag. In the background, Sgt. Ferschke's Force Recon Paddle
The U.S. Marine Corps flag. In the background, Sgt. Ferschke’s Force Recon Paddle

Several speakers held on to Sgt. Ferschke’s Marine Recon Paddle while they spoke. The Paddle served as a connection to Michael Ferschke as the Marines spoke.

All of the Marines addressed comments directly to the camera that was recording the ceremony for Sgt. Ferschke’s son, Mikey, unborn at the time that the sergeant was killed in action and now living in Japan with Ferschke’s wife Hota. All of the Marines address Sergeant Ferschke’s parents as Mom and Dad and hugged them after speaking. For if Michael Ferschke, Jr. was their brother, his parents are their parents.

Robin Ferschke spoke about her son in a Knoxville News Sentinel Video:

I never met Sergeant Michael H. Ferschke, Jr. in life. After listening to the Marines speak, I can tell you this. He loved the “Young Guns” movies. He didn’t want an ordinary life. He had a strong moral compass. He was excited about becoming a father. He was not the biggest Marine. He was not the strongest Marine. He had the heart of a lion.

A Gold Star Family is a family who has lost a member of the uniformed military services of the United States of America in battle with an enemy of Our Country. We the community honor their service and the family sacrifice.

The bust of Sgt. Michael Ferschke, Jr. at Blount County Library
The bust of Sgt. Michael Ferschke, Jr. at Blount County Library

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