Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Follow up on Gold Star Mothers

A month ago, Major K wrote about the Gold Star Mothers organization, and its refusal to consider Ligaya Lagman for inclusion, despite the death of her son Army Staff Sgt. Anthony Lagman in Afghanistan ...

Mom of Slain GI Denied Gold Star Status
Saturday, May 28, 2005
Associated Press

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — Everyone agrees that Ligaya Lagman (search) is a Gold Star mother, part of the long line of mournful women whose sons or daughters gave their lives for their country. Her 27-year-old son, Army Staff Sgt. Anthony Lagman (search), was killed last year in Afghanistan, but American Gold Star Mothers Inc., has rejected Lagman, a Filipino, for membership because — though a permanent resident and a taxpayer — she is not a U.S. citizen.

"There's nothing we can do because that's what our organization says: You have to be an American citizen," national President Ann Herd said Thursday. "We can't go changing the rules every time the wind blows."
[emphasis added]

Predictably, there was a large and unhappy response to that decision. Many people, myself included, wrote letters requesting that the group needed to rethink its policy. Within a few days a special notice was posted up on the Gold Star Mothers site regarding the media attention. But the situation remained at status quo.

Recently the organization held its national convention in Dallas, and they met to discuss and vote on changing the rules to abolish the citizenship requirement ...

Gold Star Mothers to Let Noncitizens Join
Published: June 28, 2005

The American Gold Star Mothers, a national organization open exclusively to women who have had a child killed in a military conflict while serving in the armed forces, voted yesterday to allow noncitizens to join its ranks. Earlier this year, the group was widely criticized when it denied an application from a Yonkers woman who retained Filipino citizenship.

The organization, which includes about 1,200 women, unanimously approved the change during its national convention in Dallas.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars Local 2285, in Eastchester, N.Y., had repeatedly asked the group to allow the Yonkers resident, Ligaya Lagman, to join after her son, Anthony, 26, an Army staff sergeant and an American citizen, was killed in Afghanistan last year.

The Gold Star Mothers, based in Washington, received hundreds of critical e-mails as well as a letter signed by more than a dozen congresswomen.

Judith Young, the newly elected president of the group, said in a statement that she would "reach out" to the mothers with pending applications.

But Ben Spadaro, a former commander of the Eastchester post, said he was unsure that the policy change ensured that Ms. Lagman would become a member. Ms. Lagman stopped pursuing her application last month, after widespread news media attention had subsided.

"I think she might reconsider," Mr. Spadaro said, adding that Ms. Lagman was not speaking publicly about the issue. "But I think she's been severely hurt and I can't blame her. All of the sudden it sort of just hits you in the gut."

Several Gold Star members had also petitioned the leadership to amend the organization's constitution to abolish the citizen requirement, which had been established when the group began in 1929.

"It was a 77-year-old rule that needed changing, and it should have been changed long ago," said Dorothy Oxendine, who was the group's national president in 2003. "There's no reason to think that any mother's grief is easier than any other."

Mr. Spadaro said he would use the victory to help convince the national V.F.W. and Disabled Veterans of America that they should also amend their bylaws to allow noncitizens to become members.

"It's only justified that if they can fight in the military, that they should also be able to join these organizations when they return," Mr. Spadaro said. "Instead they come back and we ask, 'Are you a citizen?' I wonder if the bullet had the same question when it came to these boys."

This is good. I hope Ms. Lagman overcomes the pain of her rejection, and re-opens her application, so that this group of mothers can heal together.


Red Guy in a Blue State weighs in with Gold Star Moms do the Right Thing.