History Class, Memorials, Uncategorized, World War 2, World War I

Stars of Blue and Gold

A family heirloom: This banner was used by author Joy Neal Kidney’s family during WWI, then repurposed by her grandmother who added two stars and used it during WWII. You can read about it in her excellent book Leora’s Letters. Many thanks to Joy for allowing me to use this image!

One hundred and two years ago today, “The War to End All Wars” ended. The armistice that brought about the end of World War I went into effect in 1918 on November 11, 11 a.m.

Several nations still mark this day and use it as a chance to remember this significant event. In places like Canada and Britain, it is known as “Remembrance Day.” In the United States, our calendars mark every 11/11 as “Veterans Day.”*

People observe this day and honor those who serve in various ways—ceremonies, moments of silence, creating displays featuring red poppies.

Our students have been working on a display recognizing veterans in our school families, and my Art students will be creating projects featuring poppies this week.

Along with this day of remembrance, the years of World War I also gave rise to another symbol to recognize those who served and sacrificed: the blue star and gold star banners.

This tradition was brought back to my attention when driving through Bremerton, WA. While some towns I have visited have flower baskets or decorative banners hanging from light posts on the streets, when I took the exit into Bremerton I noticed these.

The blue star banner was designed and patented in 1917 by Robert L. Queisser. Queisser was a veteran himself, and he had two sons serving overseas. The banners became quite popular. Bearing one star for each family member serving in the armed forces, these banners decorated the windows of homes.

Farther down the road into Bremerton, several banners hang bearing gold stars. In 1918, President Woodrow Wilson approved the practice of mothers who had lost a child to the war adding a gold star to their black mourning armband. The stars on the banners also took on a new significance as families who had lost loved ones to the war began adding gold stars over the top of the blue to mark their ultimate sacrifice.

The banners increased in popularity during World War II. In fact, the banner pictured at the top of this article is the banner used by Joy Neal Kidney’s family in WWI, repurposed by her grandmother to be used again during WWII while her five sons served.

Another image of Joy Neal Kidney’s grandmother’s banner. Again, thank you, Joy!

Use of these banners fell off in the following decades, during the wars in Korea and Vietnam. However, they’ve received increased interest since 9/11, and the Blue Star Banner Program, which encompasses not only Bremerton, but several other Washington cities, seeks to use them again to publicly remember and recognize local people who are serving and have sacrificed. Their site, bluestarbanner.org, tells the story of this program, and shares the individual stories of the men and women who are recognized with these banners.

On this Veterans Day, I’m so thankful for the chance to stop and appreciate—for a moment at least—our hard-won freedoms, and to thank God for those who sacrificed to preserve them.

*Originally, Veterans Day was named “Armistice Day.” This changed in 1954. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has an informative article on the history of the day.
For more information, here are some other interesting sources
about Robert Queisser and with more facts about the Blue Star Banner from the American Legion

11 thoughts on “Stars of Blue and Gold”

  1. Thank you for this reminder of all those who have served their country to make and keep the rest of us free. “All gave some; some gave all.” Although we don’t hear much about the blue/gold stars today, we should. I had two nephews who served in Iraq. My brother could display both a blue star and a gold star, as one of his sons was killed. When it happens in one’s own family like this, it makes a big difference in how one celebrates holidays such as Armistice/Veterans Day, Memorial Day, etc.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wow- yes. I’ll be thinking of your family today, and all the others to whom this day means more than a break from work.
      I was pleased to see the blue star/gold star program around again. It was a great chance to explain just what it meant to my kids, and an important reminder of the cost of the freedoms we enjoy.
      Thanks for stopping by.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you, Anne, for sharing this. I’m so immersed in the family story that I’ve paid little attention to the wider story.

    I even got a note this morning from Australia, where they commemorate Remembrance Day with poppies and programs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m happy to, Joy!
      This Veterans Day has been a good one for me to stop and look at the big picture. I’ve been taking some time this morning to see what other bloggers have shared- some terrific tributes.
      Thanks again for letting me use those pictures! xxxxx


  3. We made sure we again recognized our son, other family members, and friends who served and risked their lives, Ann. Few things are more important as recognition goes. Thanks for this post. I am reminded of all the Blue Star highways I have driven over and all the counties that not “Veterans are honored here.” America has not forgotten. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting; I had not heard of blue and gold star banners before. Over here, it is simply the one symbol, the poppy. In any event, we need to remember, and remind those that don’t know any better that Armistice Day is nothing to do with glorifying war or the military, but remembering those that helped keep us free and trying to learn that we should not go to war lightly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes indeed- I completely agree, there is a big difference between supporting war and supporting veterans. When I think of Veterans Day, I think of the horrors of war that I never have had to see personally, and also the smaller scale things (but still sacrifices)- like all of the kids in my classes who won’t have mom or dad home this Christmas season because of deployments (and Covid isn’t making the timing of those any less uncertain than in normal years. 😦 ) That’s one thing that I like about the blue/gold stars, they’re a chance for communities to recognize individuals (and hopefully to come together to support them.)
      May memories never grow so short that war is taken lightly, or that we hold the freedoms we have cheap!


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