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Symbols of Sacrifice to Honor Surviving Family Members


The Gold Star Lapel Button and the Lapel Button for Next of Kin of Deceased Personnel are symbols of honor bestowed on the family members who survive the loss of a loved one who died while serving in the U.S. armed forces. No one "wins" a gold star pin; it is not an award or a medal and is never considered to be a fashion accessory. These pins serve as a visual reminder of the sacrifices service members and their families have made.

The Gold Star Lapel Button

The Gold Star Lapel Button was initially established by Act of Congress in August 1947 (and amended in August 1966) to identify survivors of members of the armed forces who lost their lives during World War I, World War II and subsequent periods of armed hostilities in which the United States was engaged.

The Gold Star Lapel Button is made up of a gold star on a purple circular background within a wreath of gold laurel leaves. The gold star represents the gold star from the service flag used in World War I to signify "killed in action." The laurel wreath signifies valor and has been used for this purpose as far back as the ancient Greeks. Purple is a standard color used to signify grief or mourning. The reverse of the lapel button bears the inscription, "United States of America Act of Congress, August 1966," with space for engraving the initials of the recipient.

The eligibility criteria for the Gold Star Lapel Button are mandated by law. Surviving family members are eligible to receive the Gold Star Lapel Button if any of the following apply:

  • The service member lost his of her life during World War I, World War II or during any subsequent period of armed hostilities in which the United States was engaged before July 1, 1958.
  • The service member lost his or her life after June 30, 1958, while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States.
  • The service member lost his or her life after June 30, 1958, while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force.
  • The service member lost his or her life after June 30, 1958, while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict in which the United States is not a belligerent party against an opposing armed force.
  • The service member lost his or her life after March 28, 1973, as a result of an international terrorist attack against the United States or a foreign nation friendly to the United States, recognized as such an attack by the Secretary of Defense.
  • The service member lost his or her life after March 28, 1973, as a result of military operations while serving outside the United States (including commonwealths, territories and possessions of the United States) as part of a peacekeeping force.

The DoD furnishes one Gold Star Lapel Button without cost to the widow or widower, each parent (includes mother, father, stepmother, stepfather, mother through adoption, father through adoption and foster parents who stood in loco parentis) and each next of kin (includes only children, stepchildren, children through adoption, brothers, sisters, half brothers and half sisters).

Next of Kin Lapel Button

The Next of Kin Lapel Button is not a DoD program and not mandated by law. In 1973, the Army approved the Next of Kin Lapel Button to recognize the loss of surviving family members and the sacrifice of service members who died in active military service and did not meet the Gold Star Lapel Button eligibility criteria. Recognizing that no death is more important than another, the other services adopted the Army's program. The Next of Kin Lapel Button is awarded to the next of kin of those who lost their lives while serving on active duty or while assigned in an Army Reserve or Army National Guard unit in a drill status.

The Next of Kin Lapel Button consists of a gold star within a gold circle (commemorating honorable service) surrounded by four oak sprigs (representing the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force). The Next of Kin Lapel Button is issued retroactively to March 29, 1973.

Additional information

For additional information on requesting a Gold Star or Next of Kin Lapel Button or if you believe you meet the criteria and were not furnished a lapel button, please contact your service casualty office.


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