JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO The Army announced plans May 7 to release the second of three public service announcements developed to increase awareness of DOD-issued gold star and next-of-kin lapel pins.
Fox Sports plans to air the PSA this weekend as part of a recognition ceremony hosted by the Anaheim Angels and honoring L.A.-area Gold Star families.
The pins are designed to signify the loss of a loved one in support of our nation. Although the gold star pins have been in existence for decades, many Americans are unfamiliar with their meaning. The PSAs were developed to help educate and inform the public of the significance of the pins.
Its heartbreaking to think that a mom wearing a gold star might have someone ask her, What a beautiful pin, where do I get one?, said Donna Engeman, a gold star wife who manages the Survivor Outreach Services program for the Army.
We decided we had to do something to ensure the nationthe worldrecognizes what that pin really signifies, Engeman said.
The first Gold Star Pin PSA was broadcast by Fox Sports in the half-hour prior to the Super Bowl last February. Since then, the video has been aired on a variety of networks more than 4,000 times, according to Army officials, with an estimated potential audience of more than 800 million viewers.
During Phase II of the awareness campaign, which launches the week of Memorial Day, Engeman will literally take her message cross-country. She and three other representatives from the Installation Management Command, headquarters over the Survivor Outreach Services Program, will travel by motorcycle to the District of Columbia as part of the annual Run for the Wall motorcycle rally.
The Run for the Wall is an American Motorcycle Association-sanctioned event in which thousands of bikers ride from California to the Pentagon to raise awareness about prisoners of war and service members missing in action. Engeman will represent Survivors at each stop in the event, and will host a booth in the Pentagon parking lot prior to the annual Rolling Thunder motorcycle event, which travels from the Pentagon to the Vietnam Memorial.
Well share the PSA wherever possible, at the stops along the way, Engeman said. Ill also have flags on my bike promoting the pins.
Again, this is all about awareness. The more people know the pins exist, the better, she explained.
The PSAs consist of documentary-style interviews and narrative stories from real survivors who volunteered to be a part of the project. The voice-overs were provided by Academy-award-nominated actor Gary Sinise.
We tried to ensure the PSAs reflected the diversity of surviving families as well as honoring their service and sacrifice, said Hal Snyder, chief of IMCOMs Wounded and Fallen Support Services office. The PSAs include moms and dads, brothers and sisters, children, husbands, wives....
The point is you might see a Gold Star pin on just about anyone, Snyder continued, and we wanted to make sure everyone knows what that pin represents.
The PSAs also serve to gently remind the American public that the freedom they enjoy comes at a cost, Snyder said.
The call to action is to honor and learn, he explained. Honor those who have fallen, and learn about a small, but meaningful symbol presented to families who have lost a service member.
Phase II of the outreach plan includes an outreach effort through social media, where members of the Army Family will be encouraged to share pictures of their fallen loved ones or pictures of their favorite memorial honoring the fallenon www.facebook.com/FamilyMWR between Thurs., May 22 and Memorial Day.
During that same time period, survivors of the fallen will take part in a number of events in the D.C.-area, including the wreath-laying at Arlington National Cemetery, the concert on the Mall, and the Washington Nationals game, where the PSA will be aired both on the jumbo-tron during the game and on Fox Sports during their broadcast of the game.
Gold Star Family members will also take part in the Canadian Memorial Dedication Ceremony, events at Mount Vernon and the Vietnam Memorial, the Memorial Day Parade, and the concert on the lawn.
Program managers and survivors across America are also calling on their elected officials to include mention of the stars, and their meaning, in any Memorial Day events they might be taking part in at their home towns, districts or states.
The more people who see these, the greater the opportunity to recognize and honor families of the fallen, Snyder said.
The Armys Survivor Outreach Services program currently supports more than 55,900 surviving military family members.