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What Is A Blue Star Family? Everything You Need To Know

During times of war, if you’ve ever driven through an American neighborhood, you may have noticed some houses have small flags with a blue star hanging in a window. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Texas, New York, or California, the banners are all the same and they hang quietly, solemnly in house windows.

These Blue Star Banners can have one star or up to five and each blue star represents a loved one serving in the military during time of war. A home with a Blue Star Banner means that family is a Blue Star Family.

What is a Blue Star Family?
A Blue Star Family is the immediate family of a U.S. military member who is serving during war. They are authorized by the U.S. government to hang the Blue Star Banner from their residence for others to see.

What is a Blue Star Family history?
The Blue Star Banner was designed in 1917 by businessman and National Guard officer Capt. Robert L. Queisser. He had two sons serving in World War I and Queisser wanted to show his pride and support.

three modern and older blue star flags

His original and patented design included a solitary blue star to indicate one family member was in military service and in conflict. Individuals who fly the Blue Star Banner are therefore considered Blue Star families.

What is a Blue Star Family eligibility?
According to a U.S. Congressional resolution from 2013, the “…Blue Star Service Flag is the official banner authorized by the Department of Defense for display by families who have members serving in the United States Armed Forces during any period of war or armed hostilities the Nation may be engaged in for the duration of such hostilities.”

Immediate family members are permitted to hang the Blue Star Banner prominently in support of their loved ones. Those people include:

  • Spouses
  • Parents
  • Children
  • Siblings
  • Stepparents
  • Stepchildren, stepsiblings, half-siblings
  • Adopted parents
  • Adopted children and adopted siblings of a United States service member.

What is a Blue Star Family technically?
Some people believe that a Blue Star family is anyone who fits the aforementioned criteria and has a service member in service on active duty or serving in the guard or reserve. Technically, since the Global War on Terrorism has not been formally ended, some families who serve in the military, but are not deployed, consider themselves military families since they have a loved one who is serving in the military during a time of war.

Antique photo of woman putting blue star flag in window

Others believe that the loved one has to be forward deployed, in a combat zone, in order for the family to be a Blue Star family.

Congress and Blue Star organizations do not stipulate that a service member must be forward deployed. They only state that the service member must service during time of war.

What is a Blue Star Family banner specifically?
The War Department during World War II issued specifications for the Blue Star Banner. They clearly outlined when the flag could be hung, by whom and they also issued restrictions on who could wear the lapel pin.

The Blue Star Banner must have an 8.5-inches by 14 inches white field with at least one blue star, and no more than five, sewn onto a red banner.

What is a Blue Star Family compared to a Gold Star Family?
As previously stated, a Blue Star Family is a military family with a loved one who is serving in the U.S. military during a time of conflict.

Antique photo of many women waving american flag

A Gold Star Family is a military family which has lost a loved one during war. If a Blue Star Family has a loved one that dies in combat, that blue star becomes a gold star to show that the family’s loved one was killed.

If the family has multiple service members in the ranks, and one dies, then the highest star on the banner becomes gold and the remaining blue stars are aligned underneath the gold star.

The gold star was approved by President Woodrow Wilson in 1918 at the urging of mothers who had family killed in war. The approval meant that mothers who lost a child in the war could wear a gold star on the traditional black mourning armband. That eventually led to placing a Gold Star on the Blue Star Banner indicating that the service member had died.

What is a Blue Star Family lapel pin?
The Blue Star lapel pin debuted during World War II for wear by family members of those serving in World War II. However, it was not until 1967 that formal guidance was issued by the U.S. Defense Department. The use of the banner and lapel pin was also codified in the U.S. Code.

What is a Blue Star Family non-profit?
There are numerous charities and non-profits that have “Blue Star” in their names. None are officially a part of the U.S. government, but some are chartered by the U.S. Congress and have existed since World War I, including some founded by Gold Star families.

Most of these organizations are open to military families who fit the eligibility to be a Blue Star Family. Many of these organizations help military families and raise awareness of Blue Star family sacrifices.

Modern Blue Star Flag

What is a Blue Star Family today?
The Blue Star movement has made a comeback. After World War II, a war-weary American public lost traction with the Blue Star program. It did not fall completely out of sight, but conflicts in Korea and Vietnam dampened a lot of public support.

During the Cold War, the program grew quiet, but after 9/11 there was a groundswell of support for U.S. military personnel and the Blue Star Banners made a comeback. Today, many families still fly the banners and in addition to lapel pins, there are also automotive decals and other items that can show the public the pride of a Blue Star Family.

What is a Blue Star Family in simple terms?
The families of those protecting America are Blue Star families. They deserve the nation’s respect and admiration.

Comments on this post ( 12 )

  • Mar 08, 2024

    My daughter is in Mediterranean Sea in Israel, Red Sea as we speck. Does that make us a blue star families? If it is how do I register to proudly show off the banner and lapel pins. Thank you

    — Victoria Nez

  • Feb 12, 2024

    Thank for the information

    — Brantley

  • Feb 12, 2024

    I understand the maximum number of stars on a blue star flag is five. I have an old 6 star flag, larger than the typical window flag. There were six brothers who served in WWII. I know they were not the only family with six. Can you clarify?

    — Sue

  • Sep 19, 2023

    My grandson is being deployed. He is an Apache pilot. I read all the people that were allowed to display the blue star but I did not see grandparents. If it were not for us they wouldn’t be here. Wouldn’t it be allowed more for grandparent than adopted or step person?
    Please let me know if we as grandparents can or should not display. Also if we are allowed do these times allow for blue star?
    Thank you for your consideration to reply .

    — Pat

  • Apr 19, 2023

    Heidi Mahan-

    Please thank your son and your DIL for their service. And thank you for being supportive of them and all men and women who serve. As a veteran owned company that employs veterans, we understand the sacrifices of service. That said, yes, you would have been a Blue Star family while they were away at war. But given they have now returned and the war has ended, that is no longer the case. If they deploy for Operation Inherent Resolve or some other “combat” or hostile pay area, that will make the family Blue Star eligible again. I hope this helps. Thank you for writing. Steve, USAMM Communications

    — Steve

  • Apr 19, 2023

    I am the Mom of a son Daniel S Arnold and DIL Tiffany R.Ruck Arnold. They served as Staff Sgt and Tech Sgt respectively in USAF in Ramstein, Germany and later finished their service at Travis AFB Vacaville Ca. Both were deployed to Afghanistan numerous times and my son’s last tour was Quran. Were we ever a blue star family and now that they have returned home to Camillus, NY do we qualify as a blue star family? This is the first I have learned of this honor. If I had known about the blue star I would have proudly displayed it in a prominent place in my home. I am so very proud of both of them and their service to our country. Only those who serve and their families truly know ALL the sacrifices these people and their families make. Most Americans who have not lived it or directly observed what these families go through every day have no idea that magnitude of sacrifice they make.

    — Heidi Mahan

  • Oct 22, 2022

    Congrats on your newly minted Marine. You have much to be proud of as does your son. I recommend you look for and read the Department of Defense Directive 1348.1 which covers the Blue Star Banners and also US Code 179-182. Those sources should offer some guidelines. Hope this helps and congrats again.

    — Steve

  • Oct 22, 2022

    One of my sons is a newly minted Marine, while my other son is preparing to ship off to boot camp. Based on the current status of the United States, is it still proper to display a Blue Star flag?

    — Bob

  • Aug 25, 2022

    In 2019 I was at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and they had a display recognizing the Powell family of Hillview, IL. They had 7 sons serving in WWII. According to the information in the display, they had 2 Blue Star flags, one of 6 stars (not 5) and one with 1 star. Mrs. Addie Powell cut the star from the 1 star flag and sewed it on to the 6 star flag. The Blue Star pins had a maximum of 5 stars, so she wore 2 pins, one with 5 stars and one with 2 stars. I have a photo showing both her altered flag and the 2 sets of pins.

    — Thomas Steinhart

  • Aug 12, 2022

    Bill Stackalis-
    I think the key to being a Blue Star family is that the family has to have a relative engaged in a war. If your son retired, I would think that your family no longer meets the eligibility. In addition, he is no longer deployed. But I would not be discouraged. There are other ways to show your support of your OIF retiree son.

    From those of us here at USAMM who served there, and there are a few of us, please let him know we send our best.

    USAMM Communications

    — Steve

  • Aug 12, 2022

    If my son served in the war in Iraq, and then retired from military, Are my wife and I still a blue star family?

    — Bill Stackalis

  • Jul 28, 2022

    How /where do register for the Program
    Is there a list of all Blue Star families?
    Thank you

    — Peter Dames

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