If you live in close proximity to a military installation, you may have seen this image in a window decal around town, but may not be familiar with the meaning and history behind the sticker. These “service flags” or “service banners” are an official banner that family members of service members can display (36 USC § 901) in support of their service member.
The original service flag was designed in 1917 by United States Army Captain Robert L. Queisser of the Fifth Ohio Infantry, who displayed the first blue star banner in honor of his two sons who were serving in World War I. In 1918, President Wilson approved a suggestion made by the Women’s Committee of the Council of National Defenses that mothers who had lost a child serving in the war wear a gold gilt star on the traditional black mourning arm band. This led to the tradition of covering the blue star with a gold star on the Service flag to indicate that the service member has died. Historically, throughout World War I and II, families of deployed service members would hang these service banners in the windows of their homes to show their pride in their loved one’s service. If their service member was killed, gold would be added to cover the blue. If the service member was injured, silver.
Blue and gold are the only official colors specified for this use in the United States code, but the non-formally designated silver stars can still be used by the families of the wounded. The Silver Star Families of America is attempting to encourage the U.S. Congress to make the silver star service banner official for those wounded or injured in a war zone. 49 states, Guam, Saipan, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Chickasaw Nation and over 2,700 cities and counties have issued proclamations in support of the Silver Star Banner and of Silver Star Service Banner Day on May 1 of every year, and on an April 21, 2010 the United States House of Representatives issued House Resolution (855), which served to recognize the Silver Star Service Banner and make May 1 Silver Star Day.
“The world should know of those who give so much for liberty.
The dearest thing in all the world to a father and mother – their children.”
– read into the Congressional Record by an Ohio Congressman on Sept. 24, 1917