Gold Star Wives Honor Fallen Military Members and Families

  • Published
  • By Capt. Shane O. Huff
  • 927th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs Office
An annual event for homeless veterans in Tampa called "Standown" was held at Hyde Park United Methodist Church today.  Ms. Wendy Hellickson, from the James A. Haley Veteran's Hospital, is the Program Supervisor of Health Care for Homeless Veterans and was the lead event organizer for this years event. "This is now an open event to all homeless in the community with the concept of getting them off of the street and helping them to change their lifestyle", said Hellickson.  

Approximately 30 vendors were in attendance at today's event offering free services from HIV tests, health care screenings, legal services, food and clothing donations, mental health services, the Center Domicilary Care for Homeless Veterans, Crisis Center hotlines, free hair cuts, and other information about services available to eligible veterans and or their family members.

One such vendor was Ms. Marie Cain, President of the Suncoast Chapter of "Gold Star Wives of America, Inc.,"  a non-profit national military service organization chartered by the United States Congress, Public Law 96-497.  Comprised of widows/widowers whose spouses died while serving in the Armed Forces of the United States, or as a result of service-connected disabilities.  One of Cain's main goals is to find widows/widowers of deceased military members who are eligible for educational and medical benefits. Although today's event was focused around helping homeless veterans, Cain says she has participated in this annual event before and often finds people who are eligible to receive benefits. 

Gold Star Wives began as World War II was drawing to a close.  Little was being done for the many young widows, who were also victims of that war, suffering the loss of their husbands and having to provide for their fatherless children. Knowing that they had only each other to rely on, four New York widows established a support group in 1945.  They became the American Widows of WWII.  It was not long before they realized that men were still dying from service-connected causes and in 1948 the name was changed to "Gold Star Wives of America, Inc.", and included all service widows from across the nation.  The Gold Star is taken from the symbolic banner which hung in the window when a member of the armed forces was killed-in-action. From the beginning, strong support and encouragement was given by Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, the widow of the Commander-in-Chief. Criterion for joining are the death of a spouse, killed-in-action, missing-in-action, while on active duty or of 100% service-connected causes. The Gold Star Wives claim "We are an organization that doesn't like to grow."  Their motto, "United we stand - divided we fall - and are forgotten," is indicative of the strong spirit of sharing and caring that only other widows can experience.   

Purposes of Gold Star Wives of America, Inc.

1. To assist in upholding the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, and to inculcate a sense of individual obligation to the Community, State, and Nation. 

2. To honor the memory of those who made the supreme sacrifice in the service of our country. 

3. To safeguard and transmit to posterity the principles of justice, freedom, and democracy for which members of our armed services fought and died. 

4. To provide the benefits of a happy, healthful, and wholesome life to minor children of persons who died in the service of our country. 

5. To promote activities and interests designed to foster among its members the proper mental attitude to face the future with courage. 

6. To aid when necessary the spouses and children of persons who died in the service of our country. 

7. To do any and all things necessary and incidental to carry out the general purposes and objects of this organization.    

How Gold Star Wives Help Members

1. Member Support Services 
    - Networking through local chapter meetings and regional conferences
    - Fund-raising Tea supporting projects honoring the memory of our spouses
    - Memorial Day and Veterans Day program involvement
    - Quarterly Newsletter on membership involvement, legislative and educational information
    - Special recognition awards for outstanding performance in GSW
    - National convention

2. Community & Volunteer Services
    - Volunteer work in community, military, and veterans hospitals
    - Personal contributions supporting community, military and veterans projects
    - Organizational support for veterans memorial projects and programs
3. Legislative Information Services
    - Provides members information on pertinent issues, such as:
      Dependency and Indeminity Compensation (DIC) for unmarried and reinstated widows/widowers
    - DIC for remarried widows/widowers age 57 and over
    - Cost of living adjustment
    - Defense eligibility enrollment reporting system (DEERS)
    - CHAMPVA for remarried widows/widowers age 55+
    - Education benefits
    - VA home loans

Members of Gold Star Wives appear before various House and Senate committees on issues concerning compensation, educational benefits, medical care, and other programs pertaining to the welfare of military survivors.  The Gold Star Wives program is financed through out-of-pocket funds, volunteers and donations are always needed.

For further information call  Ms. Marie M. Cain at 813-671-2742, E-mail:  or for national information call 1-888-751-6350 or 205-823-1778, E-mail:, Web Page: