By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
For decades, mothers and wives who lost a loved one in combat had a community of others who faced similar feelings to turn to for support.
Today, brothers and sisters of those killed in action have a similar support network.
Karen A. Hickman, of Indiana, founded Gold Star Siblings, Inc., so that siblings of deceased servicemembers had someone to lean on who understands what they're going through. "There has never been an organization just for siblings," she said. "Our goal is to become one voice, to reach out and help the ones trying to deal with such a traumatic loss."
That was something she didn't have when her brother was killed while serving in Vietnam.
"When the funeral took place, I felt like an outsider," Hickman said. "I had to grieve alone and where my parents couldn't see me because I had to be strong for them and my younger brother.
"I have never felt so alone," she added.
Gold Star Siblings grew from those feelings of isolation and Hickman's desire to never let another sibling suffer in silence. And while the members of her organization are not professional counselors, they certainly can understand what many siblings are facing today.
"We are just like (them): confused, angry, sad and always wondering, 'Why him or her, and not me? Why was our world turned upside down?'" she said. "We have been there, and everyday the thought is always with us."
Helping each other through grief, in part, means presenting a Gold Star flag to the oldest sibling, Hickman said. If there are other siblings, they receive Gold Star lapel pins.
If the family requests, Gold Star Sibling members also will stay with them during a servicemember's funeral.
Gold Star Siblings is a new supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and corporations with military personnel and their families serving at home and abroad.
Hickman said she hopes the affiliation will offer her organization exposure and the networking opportunities to let everyone know she and other Gold Star Siblings are there for those who need their help.
Gold Star Siblings Inc.
America Supports You