Gold Star Mother’s Day

The five-star service flag in the farm home of Clabe and Leora Wilson near Minburn, Iowa, late 1943.

The service flag is an official banner authorized by the Department of Defense for display by families who have members serving in the Armed Forces during any period of war or hostilities the United States may be engaged in.

A Blue Star family refers to one with a member in active service. A Gold Star means the loss of a family member in military service.

When Dale Wilson joined the Army Air Force in 1943, his mother Leora couldn’t find a service flag with three stars. Dale’s two older brothers were already in the US Navy.

Leora borrowed her mother’s three-star flag from WWI, when three Goff brothers served with the 88th Infantry Division in France.

Eventually all five Wilson brothers were helping with the war effort. Leora was able to buy a service flag with five blue stars.

With all five sons gone, Clabe could no longer take care of the landlord’s farm plus all the livestock, even with a hired man. The service flag moved with them when they bought a small acreage near Perry in late 1944.

In 1945, Leora pasted a gold star over one blue one when Junior was killed August 9. In early 1946, they received word of Danny’s death (which had occurred nearly a year earlier) and an official Declaration of Death (DOD) date was set for Dale Wilson. Leora reluctantly added two more gold stars.

After she was widowed and moved to Guthrie Center with her own mother, Leora Wilson was honored by the American Legion as a Gold Star Mother. Gold Star Mother’s Day is observed on the last Sunday of September as a day to recognize and honor those who have lost a son or daughter while serving the United States Armed Forces.

The Wilson family service flag is now owned by the Dexter Museum. All seven Wilson children grew up in Dexter during the Great Depression.

Leora’s Letters: The Story of Love and Loss for an Iowa Family During World War II


    • I know what you mean. “Leora’s Early Stories” brings out more about how she and Clabe’s personalities were forged when they were young, then young marrieds, to shepherd their flock through the Great Depression and the war.

    • Thank you, Luanne. I never thought of it that way, but you’re right. I know only one other local family who lost a son, in the Middle East. Otherwise, they are forgotten. (I’m enjoying your compelling “Rooted and Winged,” which arrived with two fabulous Ursula K. LeGuin stamps!)

      • Wonderful news about the book and the stamps!
        You are so right about being forgotten–and you are doing so much to turn that around!!!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.