In World War I, families who had sons serving in the War would place a banner with a blue star for each son in the window. If the son was lost, a gold star was superimposed over the blue star, leaving a blue border.
World War I Army Captain Robert L. Queissner of the 5th Ohio Infantry designed the Blue Star Service Banner. He had two sons serving on the front line in Europe.
On September 24, 1917, an Ohio congressman read into the Congressional Record:
The mayor of Cleveland, the Chamber of Commerce and the Governor of Ohio have adopted this service flag. The world should know of those who give so much for liberty. The dearest thing in all the world to a father and mother – their children.
While first used in World War I, the flags were standardized and codified by the end of World War II. In modern usage, an organization may fly a service flag if one of its members is serving active duty. [Wikipedia]
Those entitled to display the service flag are officially defined in 36 U.S.C. § 901 which reads:
A service flag approved by the Secretary of Defense may be displayed in a window of the place of residence of individuals who are members of the immediate family of an individual serving in the Armed Forces of the United States during any period of war or hostilities in which the Armed Forces of the United States are engaged.
I don’t know if my great-grandmother had a blue star flag in her window in their home in Southwest Virginia. I do know she prayed daily and daily looked down into the valley to see if the train would be bringing her son home.
My journey to tell that story in Clean Dry Socks: Diary of a Doughboy continues.