The Next Generation

Information for the newest generation of Gold Star children

Gold Star Children – the documentary.

Across the country, the documentary ‘Gold Star Children’ is currently being screened at film festivals and special events. On Veterans Day 2013, the film was shown at Arlington National Cemetery.

‘Gold Star Children’ was produced by SDIT member Mitty Griffis Mirrer and includes interviews with many Gold Star ‘sons and daughters’ from the Vietnam War.

Sons and Daughters In Touch is proud to support this film and the connection it is making between generations of Gold Star Children!

 

Click here to view:

Interview with Mitty Griffis Mirrer and Cierra Becker

 

Click here to view:

‘Gold Star Children’ – Cierra Becker interview on Veterans Day 2013

 

Click here to view a trailer of the film and to purchase and download the entire film to your computer:

http://goldstarchildren.org/trailer

Father's Day: Gold Star 'Sons and Daughters' wash 'The Wall' bearing their fathers' names…

Watch Fathers Day at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall on PBS. See more from National Memorial Day Concert.
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Vietnam 2003: Why the SDIT trip ten years ago still matters in 2013, and beyond…

Ten years ago – March 17, 2003 – more than 50 American Gold Star “sons and daughters” who lost their fathers in the Vietnam War stood in the Singapore International Airport, watching on television as President Bush warned Saddam Hussein that failure to leave Bagdad would result in military action against his regime.

Within this Gold Star delegation were the now-grown children of men who served in every branch of the US military: enlisted, draftees and officers. Their fathers served in every era of the war; some were killed early in their tours of duty, others completed months and years of service, and some were still Missing in Action. Four of their fathers were posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

The group was returning from an emotionally draining two-week trek across Southeast Asia, to see the places their fathers fought and died nearly four decades earlier. These sons and daughters who had just struggled to confront the war that had taken their fathers and robbed them of childhood innocence would return home to face war again.

* * *
In June 2000, during a Father’s Day ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Sons and Daughters In Touch announced a first-ever historic trek to Vietnam. I was the first time such a large group of Gold Star family members traveled to see, taste and touch the country where 58,282 Americans were lost. Within a month of the announcement, two Veterans organizations – Vietnam Veterans of America and VietNow – pledged their moral and financial support for the historic and emotional journey.

On March 2, 2003, a team of 20 Vietnam combat veterans and nurses braved their own emotions to lead 50 Gold Star sons and daughters from Los Angeles to Vietnam.  It was fitting that their pre-trip press conference was held at the Bob Hope Hollywood USO as many of their fathers had enjoyed USO shows hosted by Hope and other Hollywood celebrities. A message of support from the aging Bob and Delores Hope was delivered by their personal representative.

The delegation – with the theme “In Honor, Peace and Understanding” – set out to honor their fathers, achieve a degree of inner peace, and gain a better understanding of what their fathers experienced in Vietnam. Upon touching down in Ho Chi Minh City, they broke into an unrehearsed, celebratory round of applause – a sentiment that in the in the 1960s and 70s would have been unfathomable.

As they acclimated to the culture, the group stayed at Saigon’s famed Rex Hotel and met with representatives of the U.S. Embassy.  They made day trips to the floating markets on the Mekong Delta, absorbed tours to historical sites, visited local restaurants and participated in random exchanges with locals.

They then broke into smaller teams for travel to the different corners of Vietnam where their fathers died in hamlets, jungles, rice paddies and atop craggy mountain sides.  Months of planning and research enabled them to collect soil, burn incense and lay flowers while standing in the exact spot where their fathers were lost – their personal ground zero.

When they weren’t engulfed in absorbing their own loss, the sons and daughters consoled each other as they had experienced similar losses and faced similar emotions.

* * *

Last month, America marked the 40th anniversary of “Operation Homecoming” – the return of U.S. Prisoners of War from Hanoi and the Department of Defense recently launched an effort to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War.  A total of 58,282 names are now inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and a new Education Center is underway to tell the stories of each of them.

Vietnam is forever etched into America’s history and psyche.

Tracing a fathers’ footsteps enabled Vietnam to become a destination of remembrance, celebration and understanding rather than  the source of enduring nightmares.  When the time is right, perhaps this trip can serve as motivation and model for America’s new generation of Gold Star families – that they might trace the final footsteps of their loved ones.

Maybe our visit to Hanoi will be their visit to Baghdad, and our visit to Hue City theirs to Fallujah. Just as we crawled through the Cu Chi Tunnels, maybe they’ll walk the streets of Ramadi. Learning how U.S. Veterans are working with Project RENEW to rid Vietnam of thousands of unexploded ordinances may engender a humanitarian project to rid Iraq of unexploded IEDs.

* * *

Ten years later, debating the reasons for our nation’s invasion in Iraq is as rending as considering rationale for America’s involvement in Vietnam.  Yet, discounting military families – especially Gold Star children – is a mistake never to repeat.  In our age of instant communication, it’s easy to locate, connect with, and meet the needs of families torn apart by war.

Seventy-plus years after WWII, sixty-plus after Korea, fifty past Vietnam and so many other conflicts, and now ten years after the start of the war in Iraq, Sons and Daughters In Touch continues to champion the needs of Gold Star families from all wars.  First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden are focusing attention on America’s military and Gold Star Families, too, but there is more to be done.

The “Gold Star” designation  is un-chosen and unending.  It is a constant reminder of what was lost, and what might have been. Yet it preserves the memories of a fallen father or mother who wore our Nation’s uniform, and adds indelible words to the pages of American history. For Gold Star families, it can be a debilitating anchor or life’s springboard, inspiring them to move beyond the pain. Sons and Daughters in Touch hopes our journey will serve as inspiration to this latest generation of  Gold Star Children.

November 11, 2001 – An Open Letter to the Children Who Lost Parents on 9/11

SONS AND DAUGHTERS IN TOUCH
“They Were Our Fathers…”

11 November, 2001

___________________________

An Open Letter to the Children who lost a parent in the Terrorist Attacks on America

In the aftermath of the attack on America, scores of relief agencies mobilized to aid the victims of this unspeakable act of war. Among the most haunting questions was: “What will happen to the children who lost their parents in the attacks?”

For the past 11 years, Sons and Daughters In Touch (SDIT) has been addressing that very question for the now-grown children of American servicemen lost during the Vietnam War. The question then was, “What is it like to have lost your father in the Vietnam War?” And now, “What is it like to have lost your parent in the attack on America?”

Unfortunately, the issue of “children victims” has been the focus of limited national research. Instead, much of what is known about the healing process for the children of Vietnam losses has come to light through the efforts of Sons & Daughters In Touch (SDIT). Formed in 1990 by some of these “children,” SDIT is a national support organization for more than 3,000 of the untold number of ‘sons and daughters’ left fatherless by the Vietnam War.

Together, we have peered into the past, shared our experiences, and established an ongoing legacy of learning, honor and remembrance. And in the midst of that has come hope and healing.

With a foundation based in the hard-earned life experiences of its members, SDIT offers the following insights which we hope can be a comfort and guide:

A final “good-bye…”
Sadly, in those cases where your parents’ remains were not recovered, a lifelong sense of disbelief may exist. Though it was impossible to achieve under these circumstances, the value of a tangible and visual “good-bye” cannot be underestimated. SDIT has learned from similar cases (primarily those in which a loved one was listed as Prisoner of War or Missing in Action and is still unaccounted for), that the reality of the loss will be tempered by the understandable question, “…are you sure?”

Without some form of closure, you may find yourself imagining that Mom or Dad might someday walk into the room, or be there to pick you up after school. That is normal and expected. Fortunately, time and reason are sound cures. Over the years, you will come to accept the loss of your parents as a tragically-heroic badge of honor.

“Get over it”
Don’t ever allow anyone to demand this of you. The process of grieving and healing is a unique and often lengthy process. The simple reality is that one never ‘gets over’ such a loss. For a lifetime, this tragedy will be a seminal moment in your life.

Every stage and milestone in life will now be different. As a teenager, an adult, a parent and a grandparent; at 30, 40, 50 and older ages, your life will be different than it would have been had you not experienced this loss. One never truly “gets over it”.

Let acceptance be your destination…and know that your arrival at this goal might take a long time.

A time and place
As you come to accept your loss, it will be helpful to have a special time and place for remembering your parent. You may choose to do that alone, within your immediate family, with friends, or with the greater family of those who experienced a similar loss.

For many SDIT members, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial “Wall” in Washington, DC, became a place of solace and healing. For you, perhaps a national memorial that has yet to be established, or one in your community, will serve that purpose. You might also seek a day that permits public celebration of your parents’ life. For us, Father”s Day affords that opportunity (and these national tributes have served as the building blocks to help extend the healing to new sons and daughters).

Should you choose to wait until adulthood before reaching out to others who endured a similar experience, do not be afraid. Most members of SDIT were in their 20’s and 30’s before taking the same steps. Some of you will openly embrace this common bond and actively nurture it. Others will reject it. Know that participation and interaction is a choice, not an obligation. And that you may benefit from more or less interaction at different times in your life.

The “benchmark”
Perhaps the most significant milestone for the members of SDIT was the time in life when they outlived their fathers. War”s cruelty dictated that some of our members outlived their fathers at 19 or 20. For others it was 25, 30 or 35, but it brought with it questions about how to live our lives without the benchmark that Dad represented.

This same milestone will exist for you. Reaching this milestone will signal a venture into uncharted waters filled with questions. “Is this the way adulthood really is?” “Can I ever accomplish as much as they did?” “How would mom or dad advise me in this challenging situation?”

The answers to these questions can be found through discovering just who your mom or dad was. Ask questions of family and friends, keep pictures and mementos, and attend your parents’ class reunions. The knowledge and understanding – and possibly friends – you’ll gain will help you to hear your parents’ voice and inherit their intuition.

Finally, while it”s impossible to document the myriad lessons we’ve learned here, we extend an offer to help however possible. As you organize, and as you heal, let us know how we can help. In the meantime, our hearts and prayers are with you.

In solidarity,

Sons and Daughters In Touch

Sons and Daughters In Touch is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization committed to locating and uniting the Gold Star “sons and daughters” of American servicemen lost in the Vietnam War.