Gold Star Family Display Unveiled at Pentagon

Gold Star Family Display Unveiled at Pentagon

Photo by: DoD

A new permanent display honoring Gold Star families who carry on the legacy of their fallen service members has been unveiled at the Pentagon.

“The gold star is a ... symbol of your loved one, a symbol of the one that you lost,” Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said Oct. 29 during the livestreamed dedication ceremony. 

For every casualty of war, Milley said, “there’s a story that illuminates the true character of a Gold Star family member.” Now this new display, located in the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes, will tell their stories.

According to DoD, the display will pay “tribute to not only the men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for this great nation, but to the families they leave behind who serve as their living legacies.”

The memorial will also include the history and meaning behind the gold star on the service flag and lapel pin.  

The gold star symbol dates back to World War I, when families hung in their window service flags with blue stars to represent family members serving in the military. The star was changed to gold if a loved one died in combat.

Jane Horton, a Gold Star spouse who played a key role in the creation of the display, said the individuals and stories featured on the wall will change every six months.  

For these first six months, the display will feature the families of the Sullivan brothers, five brothers who served and died together on the USS Juneau during World War II; Sgt. 1st Class Ofren Arrechaga, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2011 while serving with the 101st Airborne Division; and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan Farmer, who was killed in Syria last year. 

Matthew Donovan, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said the new memorial represents the “heart and soul” of DoD and the nation. 

“Over the years, the Pentagon has become a living museum,” Donovan said, adding that the halls display significant moments and individuals throughout the department’s history. 

“The memorial you will see today will do just that as we honor our Gold Star families,” he said.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 7,000 American service members have been killed in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and more than 16,000 have died of other causes in that time, according to DoD.

Milley encouraged people to visit the memorial, which will be part of the public tour, and to share the stories of fallen service members.

“Let us never forget your sons and daughters and why they gave their lives, that they were willing to sacrifice the promise of their tomorrows for the brightness and the freedoms of our todays,” Milley said.