81st Training Wing Public Affairs --
“Being a Gold Star Family Member is being a part of a club you don’t want to be a part of,” said Diane Moore. “But to come home to Keesler and have Keesler’s arms envelop me in this huge hug that said I’m still an Air Force family member and they’re proud to have me here has made this last year probably one of the best years I’ve had since my daddy went to Vietnam.”
Moore is the daughter of Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Moore, Vietnam War prisoner of war and missing in action.
A Gold Star Family Member is the immediate family member of a service member who was killed in combat or through an act of terrorism, and the program is a way for the Air Force to keep Gold Star Family Members a part of the Air Force family.
“It recognizes the sacrifice that my dad and a lot of other armed forces and military men and women have done,” said Moore. “It recognizes us as a family that has lost a loved one because of that ultimate sacrifice.”
Although program started out as the Gold Star Wives, it has undergone many changes over time.
“It started in World War I and when each war came and went, they started adding spouses and then the family members of the individual,” said Moore.
“Before May 15, 2017, Gold Star family members didn’t really have any benefits,” said Jackie Pope, 81st Force Support Squadron Airman and Family Readiness flight chief. “But last year there was a big push where the Air Force sent over 500 letters to Gold Star Families that they deemed eligible to receive a special ID card, which allows them to have access to the installation and utilize A&FRC programs.”
Moore expressed how grateful she was to be pulled back into an active duty base and be invited to events since turning in her dependent ID card when she turned 18 years old.
As part of being the head for the Gold Star Family Member Program, Pope was responsible for issuing the ID cards to the families and each family she met, had an impact on her.
“My favorite and hardest part is the initial meeting of the Gold Star Family Member and the emotion that comes with it,” said Pope. “They’re emotional for various reasons and it tugs at you too.”
Keesler currently has six Gold Star Family Members and for those members, Keesler tries exceptionally hard for them to feel a part of the family.
“Col. Lovette has done an exception letter that allows Gold Star Family Members to use morale, welfare and recreation facilities,” said Pope. “They can use the bowling center, outdoor recreation, the Bay Breeze Event Center and the golf course.”
Pope said she reached out to other bases to see how their Gold Star Family Member Program is doing, and so far Keesler is leading the pack.
“Since I have been adopted by Keesler, I had no inkling of an idea that I would be getting a phone call or an email here and there that says ‘we’re doing this and we want you to be a part of it’ and it’s exciting,” said Moore. “The feeling that Keesler has given me is what I’d like other Gold Star Families to have.”