We hold a Luminary Initiative every year on the last Sunday in September to honor mothers who have lost a son or daughter serving in the U.S. military.
From the Revolutionary War to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, mothers throughout America’s history have always seen their loved ones heed the call to duty. And with that duty comes the ultimate burden that these mothers must bear. Lighting a luminary on Gold Star Mother’s Day lets them know they don’t stand alone.
In communities big and small, organizations and individuals honor these women, from citywide events to a single luminary at the end of a driveway. Community service clubs, church groups and military organizations all participate – and they all need leaders, someone who will coordinate the day’s activities, someone who will send out the call to action.
Is that someone you?
Here are suggestions about how to create a Luminary Initiative event in your community:
- Make a commitment to establish a Luminary Initiative lighting event within your organization or community. Put it in writing, and select one member to lead the organization in your efforts.
- Involve you local civic leaders, and try to have a citywide promotion of the Luminary Initiative.
- Pick a location, such as a park, and time for the luminary lighting.
- Spread the word through traditional media and social media resources. Create awareness of your event.
- If no event is possible, encourage neighborhoods to light luminaries in front yards, driveways or on front porches.
- If possible, invite any Gold Star family members in your community to attend, or alert them to the activities you have planned in their honor.
- Join the Luminary Initiative group on Marine Family Network to connect and share with others who are participating around the country.
Make Your Pledge Today
We are encouraging you to pledge your support for the Luminary Initiative and to light luminaries on that day. Our goal is to have as many communities as possible in each state to support these mothers of our fallen heroes. In 2011, more than 400 people from 19 states pledged to and held Luminary Initiative lighting ceremonies, and we received wonderful notes and photos from many. Sign your pledge of support by clicking here.
To help you get the word out, you can download a pdf file of our Luminary Initiative rack card, or you can order them through the EGA Shop; click the respective links in the beige box to the right. Hand them out at church, during a club meeting and spread them throughout your neighborhood.
To hold a Luminary Initiative, you’ll need luminaries. You can order them, complete with tea light candles and a candle base, or make your own bags by following our directions and downloading our star outline. Either way, click the respective links in the beige box to the right.
History of Gold Star Mothers
Gold Star Mother’s Day was designated by a joint Congressional resolution in 1936. Each year since then, the day has been observed by presidential proclamation, from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Barack Obama.
Shortly after World War I the Gold Star Mothers Club was formed in the United States to provide support for mothers that lost sons or daughters in the war. The name came from the custom of families of servicemen hanging a Service Flag in their home’s windows. The Service Flag had a star for each family member in the military. Living servicemen were represented by a blue star, and those who were killed were represented by a gold star.
American Gold Star Mothers, Inc. was founded in 1929, receiving a charter from Congress. It began with 25 mothers living in Washington, D.C. and soon expanded to include affiliated groups throughout the nation. On June 23, 1936, a joint congressional resolution designated the last Sunday in September as Gold Star Mother's Day, a holiday that has been observed each year by a presidential proclamation. Click here to see the proclamation.
Past Luminary Initiative Event
Sunday, September 25, 2011, marked the third year MarineParents.com, Inc., encouraged people and communities across the country to participate in the Luminary Initiative on the last Sunday of September in honor of Gold Star mothers. It was a huge success, and we thank all who participated by lighting luminaries and holding local ceremonies.
We held a ceremony at a park near our headquarters in Columbia, Missouri, and it was a beautiful and serene evening. We were honored to have two Gold Star families in attendance, and we thank them for coming out and sharing the evening with us. "This is one small gesture … a little light in honor of the families we hold so dear and what they have sacrificed for us," said Tracy Della Vecchia, founder and CEO of MarineParents.com.
Also in attendance were the Patriot Guard Riders, who arranged American flags around the area, a bagpipe player who played “Taps” and provided background music for the evening, and a chaplain who recited a poem and a prayer at the ceremony.
Here’s a slideshow of the photos from our Luminary Initiative event in Columbia.
Find more photos like this on Marine Family Network
A local newspaper covered the event, and this year we hope to have even more coverage of this special Luminary Initiative. Last year’s newspaper article provides an excellent snapshot of the evening.
"Della Vecchia presented the two Gold Star Mothers in attendance with clear glass suncatchers — bordered by red, with a gold star in the center — to hang in their windows." Click here to read the article in full.
People in 19 states lighted luminaries outside their homes, and a few of them sent us their photos and comments from the evening:
Jenna from St. Joseph, Missouri:
"We made 23 luminaries, 21 of which we put a name on to represent that particular Marine. The other two were left blank in representation of all of the others who gave their life for our country. We all live in St. Joseph, Mo. Next year I hope to get my entire neighborhood involved.”
Adriana from Santa Clarita, California:
"My daughter and I made seven luminaries with no names representing all of the Marines that have given their lives protecting our country, and we placed them in our yard. I think all it matters is that God knows our hearts and minds."
Barb Patterson (our Director of Outreach) from Richland, Michigan:
"The event on our cul-de-sac went VERY well. It was a beautiful, crisp fall evening, and everyone came outside at dusk to light their luminaries. We lined the cul-de-sac with the luminaries instead of putting them on the driveways, and it looked really nice.
“We all gathered and talked about what a huge sacrifice all of these families had made. Everyone was incredulous that this day originated in 1936 under President Roosevelt, and yet they never knew about it until we started this Luminary Initiative. One little neighbor boy who is a Boy Scout and in fifth grade said that he wanted to do a service project next year and get our entire village to have luminaries on Gold Star Mothers Day; I thought that was really sweet."
The neighborhood event was featured in the Kalamazoo Gazette. Click here to read the article in full.
Participation in the Luminary Initiative has increased every year since we began, so let's continue to encourage others to participate so that each year more people and communities can honor our Gold Star families!