May 1st is Silver Star Banner Day, but what does that mean? When viewed in the context of May being National Military Appreciation Month, a clue is perceived. Still, what is a Silver Star Banner?
A Silver Star Banner has nothing to do with the Silver Star, the second highest military award for bravery, courage and extraordinary valor on the field of battle. But it does have everything to do with what sometimeshappens to those who have been in battle.
The Silver Star Banner pictured above is one of three military service banners that can be displayed in recognition of a family member's service to our nation during a time of war.
It is different from the ubiquitous yellow ribbon in that only the families of service members may display it, and only while their service member is deployed in a combat zone. Note - it is now common practice to display or wear the banner, particularly as a lapel pin, while the loved one is a member of the military, regardless of their physical location.
The Silver Star Service Banner is less common than the Blue, thankfully. It denotes that the family member for whom the Blue was displayed has been injured.
The Gold Star Service Banner is the rarest.
It means that the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation has been made.
The tradition of replacing the Blue with the distinctive design of the Silver Star Service Banner to denote the injury of a warrior began during WWl, though the practice fell out of favor sometime between the first and second World Wars. Many families were reluctant to advertise when their warrior was injured, mostly because of the way in which those returning from war less than whole were viewed.
Because of these societal attitudes, oftentimes someone without all or use of all of their limbs was less a point of pride and more of an object of pity. Though acknowledgment was freely given for the sacrifice, the wounded often were unable to provide for their families much less become productive members of society. Sadly, families were encouraged to send these wounded heroes 'somewhere they could be properly cared for'.
It is then almost understandable, given the reactions of much of society, that families were reluctant to advertise what was seen by many as misfortune. As if to put a period on the end of the sentence, when Congress officially adopted and codified the existence, use, size and display of the Blue and Gold Star Service Banners, the Silver Star Banner was not even addressed.
Thankfully, such thinking is a thing of the past. Warriors are returning home today with injuries that in the past would have been fatal. Thanks to medical advances and the evolved society we have become, they are able to lead fulfilling, self-sustaining lives. We have all seen multiple amputees accomplish great feats of athletic prowess that most of us, with the full use of all our limbs would be unable to match.
Our generation's task is to recognize that all wounds are not visible. This is a perception that is changing though for those who struggle daily with the invisible wounds of war, change cannot come quick enough.
So, today, May 1st, on the first day of what Congress has designated National Military Appreciation Month, it is good and right that we honor those who have sacrificed a portion of their good health in service to our Nation. If you see a Silver Star Banner, thank the warrior who will continue the fight for the rest of their life. Thank the family that has stood by the warrior with pride. Thank them because you are able to live in a country where there are those who are willing to stand up, serve and sacrifice so that you may continue to choose how to live, worship and think.
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