Cause Corner

A little history about the Blue Star Service Banner

A couple weeks ago, there was a little hullabaloo on Twitter about Senator Tim Kaine’s Blue Star Service Banner lapel pin that he wore during the Democratic National Convention. He wears it in honor of his son, First Lt. Nathaniel Kaine, who is a Marine infantry officer. It was mistaken for a different country’s flag by the North Carolina Republican Party who has since apologized for their remarks on Twitter. A response tweet from WNYT reporter Ben Amey setting the record straight went viral explaining that what the lapel pin was (you can find more about the exchange in this ABC 11 article).

This situation brought up a good point. What is the etiquette regarding this special banner? Here’s what I’ve learned about how the Blue Service Star Banner came to be and how it should be displayed or worn by families with members serving in our military.

The banner was created and patented in 1917 by World War I Army Captain Robert L. Queisser of the 5th Ohio Infantry whose two sons were serving on the front line.  It was soon adopted by others whose children were serving.  In 1918, President Woodrow Wilson approved a suggestion from the Women’s Committee of the Council of National Defenses that mothers who had lost a child who was serving wear a gold gilt star on the traditional black mourning arm band.  This is when gold stars began to cover the blue stars to indicate that a service member in a family has died while serving.

The practice of displaying the Blue Star Service Banner became more common during World War II when the Department of War issued specifications and guidelines for the production and display of these banners.  Displaying the banner was sadly less common during the Korean and Vietnam wars.  After the events of September 11, 2001, though, the American Legion began distributing banners to military families who served in response to the attacks.  They are still often displayed by families today who have children and family members actively in service.

Here are some additional facts and guidelines about the Blue Star Service Banner.


1.  The banner has Department of Defense approval.

While the yellow ribbon has become a symbol of showing support for service men and women during war time, the Blue Star Service Banner is an officially authorized banner from the Department of Defense.  It may be displayed by families who have a member serving in the Armed Services during times of war or hostilities where the United States has become involved.


2.  The banner is meant to be displayed by immediate family members.

Family members who may display it include an active Armed Forces service member’s wife, husband, mother, father, stepmother or father, parent through adoption, foster parents, children, stepchildren, children through adoption, brothers, sisters and half brothers or sisters.  Organizations, such as churches, schools, colleges and universities, and places of business, with members who are serving may also display the banner.


3.  One banner can have up to 5 blue stars on it.

Each blue star on the banner represents an actively serving Armed Forces service manner in one’s family.


4.  When a military member loses their life while in service, a gold star is placed over the blue star on the banner.

The gold star is slightly smaller and should be placed in the center of the blue star with some of the blue showing around the edge.  If there are more than one blue stars on the banner, the gold star should be placed on the top star.


For more information and history, visit the Blue Star Mothers of America website.


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