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Madison American Legion, Post 229 will honor Gold Star families at its Memorial Day Celebration at Captain Jesse Ollie Wikle Jr. Veterans Memorial Park on Front Street in downtown Madison. The photo shows Bob Jones Air Force Junior ROTC presenting the colors during the 2023 ceremony. CONTRIBUTED

American Legion to honor Gold Star families on Memorial Day

MADISON – At its annual Memorial Day celebration this year, Madison American Legion, Post 229 will honor Gold Star families.

“We want to identify these families in advance,” Post 229 Vice Commander Jean Downs said. The event on Memorial Day, May 27, will start at 11 a.m. at Captain Jesse Ollie Wikle Jr. Veterans Memorial Park on Front Street in downtown Madison.

The Memorial Day ceremony will include guest speakers, patriotic music by Madison Community Band and placing of wreaths at the memorial.

A Gold Star Family has lost a loved one while serving in a time of conflict in the American Armed Forces. “The term ‘Gold Star Family’ dates back to World War I, when military families displayed service flags featuring a blue star for every immediate family member serving in the Armed Forces,” Downs said.

“The star’s color would be changed to gold if the family lost a loved one in the war,” Downs said.

Throughout the year, the American Legion honors Gold Star families by presenting Gold Star flags and lapel pins, along with Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day on the last Sunday in September.

“This year Post 229 wants to do something special to ensure our Gold Star families are recognized. Having them join in placing the wreaths is just a small gesture to acknowledge their loss and sacrifice for our country,” Post 229 Commander Larry Vannoy said.

Wreaths are placed on Memorial Day to honor soldiers who died in our nations’ wars. The tradition began when people around the country started placing flowers on graves of soldiers that had died in the Civil War.

“As we enter the month of May, we as Americans celebrate one of our country’s most important holidays, Memorial Day. For many, Memorial Day weekend is a time to kick off summer with barbecues, going to the swimming pool and enjoying the weather, but it’s also a time to honor the men and women who died in service of the U.S. Armed Forces,” Downs said.

In the week leading up to Memorial Day, individuals will see members of Post 229 and Auxiliary Unit 229 at local stores handing out Memorial Day Poppies, Vannoy said.

“So many Americans don’t know the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day,” Vannoy said. “Having our members out in the community is a way to educate our citizens.”

American Legion asks Gold Star families to email Commander Larry Vannoy at commander@americanlegionpost229.org to be honored during the ceremony. Legionnaires will gather family information for Gold Star families.

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