Years ago a star in the window symbolized a silent reminder of a loved one actively serving the country. The Blue Star Banner program, started in World War 1, hung proudly in the windows of homes where a serviceman on active duty resided. This popular practice faded during the Vietnam War, but Sherryann Franks of Archbold is striving to bring awareness of our military personnel back to the community through both the Blue Star and the Gold Star banners.
On the recent cold, breezy Sunday afternoon of October 5, 2014, the 7th Annual Blue Star/Gold Star Banner Event, organized by Franks, was held at the Wauseon VFW. The sunny yet chilly weather didn’t deter eighteen Blue Star families and one Gold Star mother from attending. As everyone gathered outside, the patriotic tone of the afternoon was set by the bagpipe music of John Galbraith followed by a police escort of the West Unity American Legion Riders.
Everyone then gathered inside to honor this year’s banner recipients. The parents and other representative loved ones of the Blue Star Banner service personnel were escorted in by the Honor Guard. The American Legion Riders presented the banners to each family as David Kleck of WNDH Radio Napoleon read the biographies of each serviceman and servicewoman represented by the stars.
Perry Marvin, Director of the area American Legion Riders, expressed, “When one goes to war, the whole family does. This event demonstrates that Americans care about Americans.” One Blue Star Banner mother expressed gratitude of receiving a banner to hang in her window so she can retire the banner presently hanging in her window that hung during World War 2 for her grandfather and great-uncle. Banners can hold up to five stars to represent up to five family members serving.
In addition to the Blue Star Banners, every year, Sherryann Franks, coordinator of the event, selects a Gold Star mother to honor and present a Gold Star Banner. The Gold Star Banner honors a loved one who was killed while serving. This year, the fallen solider memorialized was Staff Sgt. Sonny C. Zimmerman formerly of Waynesfield, Ohio who was killed in action July 16, 2013 in Afghanistan. Emotionally raw for his mother Michelle Zimmerman, she was surrounded by three former Gold Star families who attended the day’s event to offer love and support. In an emotional presentation, the Honor Guard presented her with an oil painting of her son, painted and donated by local artist Nora Sallows.
Every Blue Star Banner family and the Gold Star Banner mother were presented with prayer shawls knitted by Marty Ross and friends. The prayer shawls are prayed over as they are being made and provide families with something tangible they can hold onto in those difficult moments of missing their loved one serving the country.
A symbol of love and peace, two white doves were released at the close of the events to honor the life of Staff Sgt. Sonny C. Zimmerman. A luncheon was provided for all in attendance. For those unable to attend, the day’s events were recorded for viewing on INTV.
Franks has witnessed positive response to the event. “As emotional and raw as this is, I know I am doing the right thing. The healing starts.”