April 5 is Gold Star Spouses Day, officially created in 2010. It honors the men and women who’ve lost their spouses in military service. Organizers chose that date because it’s the same day a group of young war widows first got together in 1945 to form the Gold Star Wives of America.
As a salute to all who’ve lost a loved one in defense of our great nation, we thought we’d take a quick look at where the Gold Star Wives began—with a young woman named Marie.
Twenty-three-year-old Marie Jordan had been married to her husband, Edward, for just a couple of years when the U.S. Army drafted him to fight in World War II. It was 1944, and the two were raising their 1-month-old baby boy in a New York apartment Edward’s mother owned. Marie, in an interview many years later, said Edward had never even held a gun before the Army.
“They tell me what to do, and I’m gonna’ do it,” she said Edward told her. “It’s everybody’s duty to go. And I’m gonna’ go, and I’m gonna’ do the best I can.”
After basic training, the Army sent Edward to fight at Omaha Beach with the 29th Infantry Division. He survived the savage battle—notorious for the number of Americans killed—and even went off to continue fighting in Holland and in Germany. But Germany is where it all ended for the young Edward.
“I don’t know whether it was a sniper or mortar fire. I never found out. Never heard.”
Marie said the Army notified her of his death by telegram—something she said was all too common in those days.
For a few months after his death, she distracted herself with the many visits she got from family and friends. But as those visits began to wane, she said she needed a way to help her deal with the feelings she had about her loss. And so she reached out to three other women she’d discovered in the same position as herself. They all met at Marie’s apartment and talked about forming a war widows group.
“I wasn’t sure exactly what we were going to do, but I did jot down some purposes for the organization,” she said. “And pretty much so, those same purposes that I jotted down are still the purposes of the organization.”
Not long after the group formed, former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt joined, too. She was still dealing with the recent loss of her husband, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and she proved instrumental in helping the Gold Star Wives gain notoriety. Roosevelt helped bring attention to the issues war widows faced and even wrote about the group in her column, “My Day.” It didn’t take long for membership to grow and for the U.S. government to begin changing its policies on how military widows were treated and compensated.
These days, the Gold Star Wives, Inc.—as it’s now known—is still doing that, providing a support network and fighting for issues related to compensation and benefits. The group has evolved a little, of course. Husbands who’ve lost their military wives, for example, can now be members of the group. And so, too, can parents who’ve lost their military children. But like Marie said, the group’s purpose is still the same.
This year, the organization turns 74. It has 7,000 members and chapters throughout the country. Marie Jordan—now Marie Jordan Speers—is now a Texan living in Dallas and will celebrate her 98th birthday in May.At Veteran Energy, we’re honored to Support Our Heroes, and that includes all the brave men and women who’ve lost a spouse fighting for this country. Thank you for your service.