By Julie Provost
A Gold Star mom is a mom who has lost her child to war. This isn’t a club that anyone chooses to be in, but it is one that brings others together through their shared grief. Through their tears and heartbreak, Gold Star moms have been able to work towards change, create something to help others, and make the world a better place.
Here are 5 Gold Star moms who became fierce advocates.
1. Grace Darling Seibold
In 1917, when the US entered World War I, George Seibold, a young 23-year-old volunteered to join the war efforts. He was deployed to England and would write to his family regularly. His mother, Grace Seibold, started to volunteer by visiting servicemen in hospitals. The mail from George stopped, and his family wasn’t able to get any information on him. Grace kept visiting the hospital, hoping he might end up there.
In the late fall of 1918, they were notified that he had been killed in action. Grace devoted herself to working in the hospital and making friends with other mothers who had also lost their sons during the war. She then organized a group of these mothers so they could comfort each other and provide care to hospitalized veterans. In June of 1928, 25 moms met in Washington, D.C. to establish American Gold Star Mothers.
2. Debbie Lee
This Gold Star mom has traveled the country to help share her son’s story and advocate for the troops, their families, and the families of the fallen. On August 2, 2006, she was notified that her son, Marc Alan Lee has been killed in action, becoming the first Navy SEAL killed in Iraq. Since then, she has worked hard to ensure that our troops, their families, and Gold Star families have access to respite and vital services.
She founded America’s Mighty Warriors which provides a few programs to help. They educate, create awareness, and advocate when a service member suffers an injustice. They also offer random acts of kindness to the troops such as paying for meals or handing out gift cards. They have a Helping Heroes Heal program and provide respite through retreats for Gold Star families.
3. Phyllis McGeath
On January 18, 2012, 25-year-old Marine Cpl Philip McGeath, was killed in action in Afghanistan. He was just ten days away from the end of his deployment and planned to finish college once he returned. After he passed away, his mother, Phyllis McGeath, decided that she would go to school and finish for both of them. She graduated this past December but isn’t finished yet.
While she was in school, she also became active in helping other women who have become Gold Star moms. She has mentored them and hopes to continue helping these mothers, especially in the first few months after the death. She also wants to advocate for those who have experienced all kinds of tragedies.
4. Toni Gross
Toni Gross’ 25-year-old son, Spc. Frank R. Gross, was killed in the Khost Providence in Afghanistan in an IED explosion. To help heal, Toni turned to service, volunteering at the James A. Haley Veteran’s Hospital in Tampa in the spinal cord injury unit once a week. She also has volunteered at the USO welcome center and the Fisher House. She is the President of the American Gold Star Mothers, Tampa Bay and is an active advocate for Gold Star families. She and husband, Craig, also run Frankie’s Patriot Barbecue in Clearwater–named after their son–a favorite for veterans and service members.
5. Karen Meredith
On May 30, 2004, Karen Meredith lost her son, 1 Lt. Ken Ballard in Najaf, Iraq. She is now active in the Gold Star and veteran communities as an advocate. She has been involved with the annual California Run for the Fallen, the Travis AFB Ruck March honoring Gold Star families, two deployed runs for the fallen in Kuwait and Afghanistan, and the Mountain View Veterans memorial in her hometown.
She also has volunteered at the VA hospital in Palo Alto, CA. Karen was named the CA Assembly District 22 Woman of the Year in 2006 for her work and support of military families. She has also worked with the Army to help improve the casualty process that Army families have to go through when they lose their loved one because of what happened to her own son.
Julie Provost is an associate editor at Military One Click and a National Guard spouse. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.