What Are Blue Star and Gold Star Military Families?

A parade attendee on Veteran's Day exhibiting a portrait of his grandfather who served in the military.
... Michael Loccisano/Getty Images News/Getty Images

During World War I, Army Captain Robert L. Queisser sought a way to honor his sons’ military service. Other families soon adopted his blue-star flag to indicate active duty service in the war. Sadly, many also displayed gold stars on those flags, symbolizing the death of the service member. The Department of Defense eventually authorized the display of the flags during times when the country is engaged in hostilities or war.

1 Flying Flags in the Window

The white field, edged with red, can hold up to five blue stars. The blue of those stars symbolizes hope and pride for the service of a family member. The flags are displayed facing out in a front window. Silver stars, which indicate a family member wounded in action, symbolize gallantry, while gold stars, added for family members killed during active duty, stand for sacrifice made for honor and freedom. The gold or silver stars are made slightly smaller than the original, so that a thin border of blue shows around the addition.

2 Entitlement to Flags

Flying blue-star flags is limited to specific family members. The spouse; parents, including adoptive or stepparents; siblings; and children, whether natural-born, adopted, foster children or stepchildren, are entitled to display the window flags.

Pamela Martin has been writing since 1979. She has written newsletter articles and curricula-related materials. She also writes about teaching and crafts. Martin was an American Society of Newspaper Editors High School Journalism Fellow. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Teaching in elementary education from Sam Houston State University and a Master of Arts in curriculum/instruction from the University of Missouri.