Honoring the Sacrifice

Gold Star Lapel Button and Next of Kin Deceased Lapel Button

They are not “awards.” The Gold Star and Next-of-Kin Deceased lapel buttons are symbols of honor. And yet, there may be some confusion that surrounds the significance of the lapel pins given to surviving family members shortly after the interment of their loved one who died while serving honorably in the Armed Forces. Although there may be differences in presentation between the branches of service, there is only one law that governs the procurement, awarding, and wearing of the pins. Each of the two lapel pins have been authorized by Act of Congress.

Gold Star Lapel Button (left) are presented to and worn by surviving spouses, parents, and immediate family members of Armed Forces members killed in combat operations. On the reverse is the inscription “United States of America, Act of Congress, August 1966” with space for engraving the initials of the recipient. Next of Kin Lapel Buttons (right) are presented to and worn by immediate Family members of United States Armed Forces members who die while serving outside of combat operations.

Gold Star Lapel Button (left) are presented to and worn by surviving spouses, parents, and immediate family members of Armed Forces members killed in combat operations. On the reverse is the inscription “United States of America, Act of Congress, August 1966” with space for engraving the initials of the recipient. Next of Kin Lapel Buttons (right) are presented to and worn by immediate Family members of United States Armed Forces members who die while serving outside of combat operations.

BY ACT OF CONGRESS

Gold Star Pin

In 1947, Congress approved the use of the Gold Star Lapel Button as a way to recognize the families of military members who gave their lives while engaged in action against an enemy of the United States in certain operations defined by the law. While enacted after WWII, the award authority is retroactive to WWI, and includes most subsequent conflicts.

The Gold Star Lapel Button consists of a gold star on a purple background, bordered in gold and surrounded by gold laurel leaves. It is designated for eligible survivors of service members who lose their lives during any armed hostilities in which the United States is engaged, dating back to World War I. This includes service members who lose their lives while deployed in support of military operations against the enemy or during an international terrorist attack.

The Gold Star Lapel Buttons, so intimately associated with “Gold Star Mothers” are, in fact, not awarded by American Gold Star Mothers, Inc., nor are they limited to mothers. They are awarded by the Defense Department, usually through the casualty officer. Normally, eligible family members receive the pin prior to the military funeral.

NEXT OF KIN LAPEL BUTTON

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In 1977, the Army approved issue of the Lapel Button for the Next of Kin of Deceased Personnel. This symbol consists of a gold star within a circle that commemorates his or her honorable service. The gold star is also surrounded by sprigs of oak that represent the branches of the Armed Forces. It is designated for eligible survivors of service members who lose their lives while serving honorably under circumstances not defined above. This includes service members who lose their lives while assigned to a Reserve or National Guard unit in a drill status. It is authorized for issue retroactive to March 29, 1973.

The family members of deceased service members who are entitled to receive and wear these symbol are the widow or widower; each child, stepchild, and child through adoption; each brother, half brother, sister, and half sister; and each of the parents (this includes mother, father, stepmother, stepfather, mother through adoption, father through adoption, and foster parents in loco parentis).

OBTAINING A LAPEL BUTTON

The legal and military distinctions between the two lapel buttons are based on the place, time, and circumstances of the death, as well as the survivor’s relationship to the deceased. For either pin, eligible family members include: widow, widower, mother, father, stepparent, parent through adoption, foster parent in loco parentis, son, daughter, stepchild , child by adoption, brother, sister, half brother, and half sister. No other family members are legally eligible to receive the pin.

The Gold Star Lapel Button is  awarded only to the relatives of those killed in specific conflicts listed in the “Information” section on the back of on DD Form 3 (Application for Gold Star Lapel Button). If your loved one was killed during the time period of one of these conflicts, but not in the official area of the conflict you will receive the Next of Kin Lapel Button. For example, if, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, a service member was assigned to a unit in Germany and was killed in a training accident, you would not be entitled to the Gold Star Lapel Pin.

If you believe you are eligible to wear either Gold Star or Next of Kin Lapel Button, or require a replacement due to it being lost or damaged, email Army Survivor Outreach Services (usarmy.jbsa.imcom-hq.list.survivor-outreach-services@mail.mil). They will need to be able to verify the date and location of the loss and ensure your loved one was still on active duty status at the time of his or her death in order to process the request.

You may request issue of a lapel button by writing to the National Personnel Records Center at:

National Personnel Records Center

1 Archives Drive

St. Louis, MO 63138

Telephone: 314-801-0800

Fax: 314-801-9195

E-mail: MPR.center@nara.gov

If you are mailing in the DD Form 3, include a copy of DD-1300, Report of Casualty. This is the military equivalent of a death certificate. Even though this is not mentioned on the DD-3 instructions, you will likely be rejected for “insufficient proof” if you don’t include it. Furnish the name, grade, SSN, and date of death of the deceased soldier. The names and relationships of the next of kin must also be provided.

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