JAMES Magazine Online: Push for National Recognition of Gold Star Father’s Day

Baker Owens

Friday, September 29th, 2023

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One of the items currently bubbling in the House – whenever they get back to regular order – is a bill sponsored by Georgia Representatives Hank Johnson, D-GA, and Drew Ferguson, R-GA, that would designate November 9 as “Gold Star Father’s Day” – already a recognized day in Georgia.

“There is currently no federal or national recognition for Gold Star Father’s Day,” says Johnson. “My friend and colleague Congressman Ferguson and I agree that needs to change. Just like mothers, who have had this designation since 1936, we want to honor fathers who have lost children in service to the United States of America and recognize their unimaginable loss.”

Many Gold Star families do not have the resources to properly honor their fallen children and the day is meant to give often unintentionally overlooked fathers the chance to publicly express their feelings about losing a loved one. For a number of cultural reasons, it is often difficult for fathers to grieve publicly, much less find a support system of men going through the same thing. A nationally recognized day would help to build a network for these fathers to connect and process.

“We ask everything of our servicemembers, but we also ask a great deal of their loved ones,” said Congressman Ferguson. “Gold Star family members carry on the legacy of these American heroes, and our nation is forever grateful for their selfless sacrifices and immense strength. I commend Congressman Johnson for introducing this resolution to honor the fathers of our fallen, and I am proud to support this bipartisan legislation to designate Gold Star Father’s Day so that we may ensure those who made the ultimate sacrifice will be remembered for generations.”

As Johnson and Ferguson point out, their effort in Washington stems from the work of state Rep. Rhonda Burnough, D-Riverdal, in the Georgia House. Burnough was the sponsor of House Resolution 655 in 2018 which designated November 9 as Gold Star Father’s Day here – Georgia remains the only state with such a statewide designation.

The bill has since been introduced a number of years by Rep. Johnson and other colleagues from Georgia. The origins of the bill date to a conversation Burnough had with constituent Arthur Hughes, who had been waging a campaign of contacting Congressmen to make it happen.

“When I began advocating for Gold Star Fathers, I thought I was helping Arthur achieve a longtime goal. I decided to reach out and conversate with Gold Star Fathers directly, who let me know what they expected. They didn’t want the day to be combined with Veterans Day,” says Burnough. “It needed to be a day just about the fathers. There were many compelling reasons for this. But when one father shared that this recognition event created space for him to honor his son after a difficult divorce, I knew we had to find a path forward.”

“Over the years I have gotten to know several of these fathers personally. This movement is now a labor of love to make sure that all Gold Star Fathers across the United States have the opportunity to be honored because fathers grieve differently and need a day that belongs to them.”

To learn more and help support Rep. Burnough in her efforts: