ABOUT THE BUTTONS
In 1947, Congress* approved the use of the Gold Star Lapel Button as a way to recognize the families of service members who lose their lives while engaged in action against an enemy of the United States. In 1977, the Army approved issue of the Lapel Button for the Next of Kin of Deceased Personnel to honor those who lose their lives while serving on active duty or while assigned in a Reserve or National Guard unit in a drill status. Issue of the button is retroactive to 29 March 1973."
These small lapel buttons are normally presented to eligible family members prior to the military funeral service. Although they are less than an inch in size, they are packed with great meaning and emotion. They are not awards. They are symbols of honor. Here is how you can tell them apart.
GOLD STAR LAPEL BUTTON
This symbol 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.
NEXT OF KIN OF DECEASED PERSONNEL LAPEL BUTTON
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.
Who can wear the button?
The family members of deceased service members who are entitled to receive and wear these symbols 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).
I did not receive a button, where do I get one?
If you believe you are eligible to wear either the
Gold Star or Next of Kin Lapel Button, or require a replacement due to it being
lost or damaged, please contact the National Archives to request a replacement. You will need to complete a SF-180 and submit it to the National Archives.
*The descriptions on this page are intended to provide an overview of the public law governing the distribution of Gold Star and Next of Kin lapel buttons. To view the law in its entirety, click here.
Symbols of Honor: Blue Star and Gold Star Service Flags
Blue Star Service Flag: Patented by retired Army CPT Robert Queissner in 1917, the Service Flag, also known as a Blue Star Flag or Service Banner, represents a family member serving in the Armed Forces during a time of conflict.
The Gold Star Service Flag: Created in 1918 after President Woodrow Wilson approved a suggestion allowing mothers who lost a child serving in the war to wear a gold gilt star on the traditional black mourning arm band.
Service Flags were officially authorized by Congressional Act 36 U.S.C. 179-182 (1967), the Service Banners are usually displayed in a window of a home where an immediate Family member of a service member resides. Service flags may be displayed for the duration of the conflict.
For more information, please click here.
Authorization to Fly the Gold Star Service Flag on Army Installation Flagpoles
On 4 November 2014, LTG James McConville, the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-1, granted authority to installation commanders to display the Gold Star Service flag beneath the US flag on Army installation flagpoles during installation hosted or designated Survivor recognition days. This initiative is in support of the Chief of Staff of the Army's Gold Star Education Campaign to bring awareness to the service and sacrifice of America's Fallen.
Installation commanders may display the flag from 4 November 2014 through 28 February 2015 and on designated dates thereafter (Gold Star Mothers Day, Gold Star Wives Day, and other Survivor recognition days as determined by the installation commander). Only one flag is authorized to be flown below the US flag, and when flown, must be approximately six inches below the US flag. This authorization is granted as an exception to Army Regulation 840-10, Flags Guidons, Streamers, Tabards, and Automobile and Aircraft Plates, 1 November 1998, which states that the US flag is the only flag that may be flown over a CONUS Army installation.
To view the Gold Star Flag memo please click here