By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Dec. 07, 2010) -- For the first time, America officially recognizes the contributions and dedication of military widows with "Gold Star Wives Day."
A Senate resolution designates Dec. 18, 2010, as a day to honor and recognize the contributions of the members of the Gold Star Wives of America, Inc.
The group, with about 10,000 members, provides service, support and friendship to the widows and widowers of military personnel who died on active duty or as the result of a service-connected cause.
"This is the first year we've had a Gold Star Wives day. It's something that our government relations committee has been working on," said Kit Frazer, president, Gold Star Wives of America Inc. "It's national recognition for the organization, which is wonderful. It's something very special to us."
Frazer's husband was an Army helicopter pilot and was killed in Thailand during the Vietnam War. She said the organization represents military widows from every war since World War II.
Vivianne Wersel serves as the chairman of the Gold Star Wives government relations committee. Her husband, Marine Lt. Col. Rich Wersel, died Feb 4, 2005.
She said she hopes the observation brings awareness to the efforts of the Gold Star Wives.
"Part of it is public awareness, that the organization does exist and has existed since 1945, and the only time when we are really in the eye of the public is when we are on (Capitol Hill)," she said.
One of the issues Wersel said the Gold Star Wives would like to bring attention to is how widows receive benefits after the deaths of their husbands -- in particular, how dependency and indemnity compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs affects a survivor's payments from the Survivors Benefit Plan.
Wersel said some are confused by what the organization is working for when they ask that the rules governing benefits be changed. She said it helps to understand that a military wife often gives up a chance to earn her own retirement benefits when she agrees to move with their husband's military career.
"When you are a spouse and you have to move ten times to ten states in ten years you don't get your own retirement," she said. "Your retirement is a team retirement."
She said one of the things Gold Star Wives of America, Inc., works for is to bring attention to that issues, and she hopes the observation on Dec. 18 will bring attention to that effort.