GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) — A special ceremony was held in Gatlinburg on Tuesday to honor families who lost a loved one in war. The Gold Star that a mother or spouse may wear represents the sacrifice made by their son or daughter, husband or wife. There are also permanent memorials for those who died in action.
It was a special time for quite a few people. During World War II, a Blue Star banner was displayed in the front window of a home that had a family member serving in the armed forces. Also known as the service flag, blue stands for hope and pride.
When a service member died, the Blue Star was replaced with a Gold Star banner representing the sacrifice. Not too many years later, memorial markers started dotting our roadways and places where people gather.
The Gold Star Families Memorial Marker was dedicated at the Gatlinburg Welcome Center Tuesday where it stands as a reminder of sacrifices made by so many. Janie Bitner with the Tuckaleechee Garden Club says, “The family marker is to honor the families, all of the families, regardless of what branch of service. and this is the first Gold Star Maker in District 4 which makes up a large part of East Tennessee.”
Members of the Tennessee Federation of Garden Clubs organized the ceremony to honor Gold Star families who lost a loved one in battle while serving in the armed forces. Gold Star mother Gayle Thomas says, “To all our Gold Star momma’s and families, it’s so appreciative that you won’t let our sons be forgotten ever.”
The Gold Star program found its origins in the Blue Star Banner dating to WWII honoring all who served in the armed forces, past present, and future. This marker and seven others across Tennessee were donated by one family, Annette and Charles Tinnin.
Charles Tinnin, a Vietnam veteran says, “Can you imagine someone in your family giving their life for this country? People don’t even know what a Gold Star family is. I’m trying to get the word out there what is the Gold Star. I talked to one young man, he said it’s a video game.”
Bitner adds, “I lost my husband in the Vietnam War. He was a marine, a Lieutenant Platoon Leader, for Company D. I lost him on May 14, 1969.” She says this is real special for her. “I put my heart and soul in this because I know how special it would be to all the other families.”
Across the state, there are about 110 Gold Star Memorial Markers, but you do see quite a few more Blue Star markers on roadways and cemeteries. One reason why Tuesday’s ceremony was so special for those Gold Star families. Garden clubs all across America and Tennessee also support the Blue Star Memorial Highways. You’ll see those memorial markers all around East Tennessee.