Alabama Declares May 1 'Silver Star Day'

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 20, 2007 - May 1 will be "Silver Star Day" in Alabama, as Gov. Bob Riley signed a proclamation officially declaring the observance in a brief ceremony yesterday.

The Silver Star Day initiative was started in November, when Silver Star Families of America drafted a resolution to create the day and sent it to every state. Alabama joins 20 states and the city of Madison, Wis., which also set aside May 1 to honor wounded servicemembers, Steve Newton, the group's founder and president said. Newton is a veteran who served in both the Navy and Marine Corps.

Silver Star Families of America is a member of the Defense Department's America Supports You program, which highlights the ways Americans and the corporate sector support the nation's servicemembers.

"I know I and the members of our group are gratified to see the wonderful patriotism and care for the wounded that these states are exhibiting by declaring May 1 Silver Star Day for the wounded," Newton said. "We have worked long and hard to make this happen, but it takes the caring of governors and the people in the states to make things work."

The group, founded in 2005, has presented hundreds of Silver Star banners to wounded servicemembers and their families. The banners, which the group is working to make a government-recognized service banner, like those of the Gold Star Mothers, serve as a reminder to everyone who sees them of individuals' sacrifices.

Alabama State Rep. Greg Wren said he introduced the legislation to ensure that the "blood sacrifice of those who were wounded while wearing the uniform of the United States" is recognized. His efforts paid off with unanimous approval in both the state's house and senate.

Wren also had a personal reason for working to have May 1 declared as Silver Star Day in Alabama. His family has a long history of military service, including his father, retired Air Force Chief Master Sgt. James Wren, he said.

After Riley singed the proclamation, Wren held a reception to honor four wounded veterans. David M. Cox, a World War II veteran; Leroy Arceneaux, a Korean War veteran; Robert Jones, a veteran of Vietnam; and Sean Phillips, a veteran of the war in Iraq, all received Silver Star banners.

"Alabama's citizens have supported our nation's military in unprecedented numbers in relation to our state's population," Wren said. "Alabamians stand for freedom and salute each person who has worn a military uniform, especially those who have been wounded or lost their life in defending the United States of America."

States observing Silver Star Day in a little over a month are planning rallies and special events, Janie Orman, Silver Star Families of America's vice president, said, adding that the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars are have been very supportive. The group's hope is that Silver Star Day will become an American tradition.

"We are asking people to visit the wounded, volunteer at a (Veterans Affairs) hospital, write cards and letters to our wounded and, of course, fly the Silver Star Banner in support," Newton said. "May we never forget the sacrifices made by so many of our kids."

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