Op-ed: Gold Star Siblings – An Organization To Aid The “Forgotten Mourners” – American Military News

Op-ed: Gold Star Siblings – An Organization To Aid The “Forgotten Mourners”

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By: Karen Hickman

Karen is the founder of Gold Star Siblings Inc. and county coordinator for for Wreaths Across America. She has spent years traveling across the country to attend the funerals of fallen soldiers so that they receive burial they deserve. Her brother, Col. Thomas Steven Hickman was killed 25 days after his 19th birthday. She started GSSI because back in the Vietnam Era because was no one for the siblings of fallen veterans to turn to for help.

When a solder passes we often wonder what will happen to their child, wife, or parents. Most people rarely think about how the death of a veteran will impact their siblings. Gold Star Siblings are the “Forgotten Mourners.” My hope this will finally not be the case, thanks to help from Gold Star Siblings Inc.

Today, no exact numbers are given for how many Siblings are left behind. Many siblings go though the tragedy of seeing their brother or sister killed in war. Others must face the tragic reality of their siblings taking their own lives after battling PTSD. Regardless of the cause, recovering from the devastation of our loss is never easy. We hide our grief. We put on a facade of  “Yes, we are fine, we need to be strong for our parents now” when deep down all we want to do is scream and run away from what we are going to have to deal with when we are alone. To put it bluntly; statistics can’t convey the pain we deal with inside when our military siblings turn to drugs, alcohol, or other substances to relieve the pain or are snatched away from us prematurely.

This is why I started Gold Star Siblings Inc, the goal is to bring them in (the grieving siblings) from all wars together and to let them know they are not alone. I am a Vietnam Gold Star Sister and in 1970 there was nothing for surviving Siblings, and I suffered, mentally and physically trying to find the answer to, “Why my brother?” “He was a wonderful brother and a brave soldier, “Why Him?” It took me many years of pain and suffering to realize there were no answers, it was happening to other siblings also.

That was in 1999, when I had reached rock bottom. I decided I had to help others so they would not go through what I had. I finally got a 501c3 nonprofit status and Gold Star Siblings Inc was started. It has been slow going but I continue to stay at it for my sake as well as for the sake of the younger and older Gold Star Siblings. The goal is to make sure all Gold Star Siblings are taken care of, that they do not have to face the funeral or the after funeral alone. That there will be me or someone further out from the grieving process to help them through whatever they may need. I do not ask for membership money because we have earned our membership through the loss of our beloved brothers and sisters.

I have been going to The Fallen Heroes Funerals, where I can travel to. I have given gifts to the surviving siblings. I have talked with them and even spoke at a funeral. You have to understand, right now it is me, a good friend, and my daughter. I live in a small area, the entire county is made up of 10,334 people. I have been paying out of pocket for websites, traveling, and gifts. This is why I need help, I need funds for traveling, to help a sibling in need of anything. If you are interested in seeing how you can get involved or give back visit our website or our Facebook or Twitter pages for more information.

Karen Hickman

Karen is the founder of Gold Star Siblings Inc. and county coordinator for for Wreaths Across America. She has spent years traveling across the country to attend the funerals of fallen soldiers so that they receive burial they deserve. Her brother, Col. Thomas Steven Hickman was killed 25 days after his 19th birthday. She started GSSI because back in the Vietnam Era because was no one for the siblings of fallen veterans to turn to for help.