SEATTLE (NNS) -- During Seattle Fleet Week and in conjunction with the Navy Gold Star program, Gold Star families participated in a tour aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance (DDG 111), Aug. 2.
The term Gold Star family is a modern reference that comes from the service flag. These flags were first flown by families during World War I and included a blue star for every immediate family member serving in the U.S. armed forces during times of war or conflict. If that loved one died while in service, a gold star replaced the blue star.
Today, the organization recognizes the sacrifice all Gold Star family members make when a parent, sibling, child or other loved one dies in service to the nation.
One of the family member’s touring was Michael Milam, native of Lynnwood, Washington, who lost his son Luke, 26, in 2007 while he was serving in Afghanistan as a U.S. Navy hospital corpsman.
Luke, a Littleton, Colorado native who was a graduate of Columbine High School in 1999, joined the U.S. Navy two months after the school shooting. He served three tours in Iraq and was killed in combat in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. Michael remembers his son and said he died doing what he loved.
The Gold Star program plays an important role providing support for family members through a very difficult time, helping them build resilience and establish a new normal.
“In my mind, Gold Star is helping us realize there are other people out there than ourselves. It helped me realize that instead of feeling sorry for myself, that someone else is going through the exact same thing,” said Milam. “So, we have support from them to be able to do different activities like this or ball games … things that bring us together like that.”
The tour was not the first tour that Michael has been able to do.
“The Navy and Marine Corps have been very good to our family,” said Milam. “We’ve been involved with this program for quite a while and I’ve been on other Navy ships too, but this one was very well organized and they did a really good job.”
The tour included seeing areas of the ship such as the captain’s bridge, fo’c’sle, 5-in. MK 45 gun and flight deck.
When the tour concluded, Milam expressed how he feels about the Gold Star program and what it has done for him.
“I think anyone who has lost a family member in military service, in combat, suicide or whatever; I think this is a very good organization to be involved with,” said Milam. “I think the services they offer for both help and camaraderie has been very beneficial to myself and my family.”
For more news from Navy Region Northwest Public Affairs Office, visit www.navy.mil/local/NRNPAO/.