Long Beach this week became the first city in the nation to permanently display the Gold Star flag honoring United States service members killed during times of armed conflict and paying tribute to their families.
The tradition of a mother going to her window to display a blue star, signifying she has lost a loved one at war, goes back to World War I.
"When that blue star in the window has been changed to gold, now the whole community knows there's been a loss in the family," said Terry Geiling who runs the American Gold Star Manor, a housing development for 400 for low-income seniors and veterans in Long Beach.
He says the tradition of putting a service flag in the window continues today, thanks to a group known as the American Gold Star Mothers. Some members of that group are among the residents of the American Gold Star Manor.
At Geiling's request, Councilwoman Gerry Schipske proposed that Long Beach become the first city in the nation to permanently fly the Gold Star Mothers flag honoring the sacrifices of military families.
She has a family link to the Gold Star tradition. Schipske's grandmother had two sons in the service during World War II, and one died in the war. Her grandmother later lived at the Gold Star Manor until her death in 1959, Schipske said.
The City Council voted its approval Aug. 13 and the flag was hoisted at Long Beach City Hall Plaza two days later. A Blue Star flag honoring active duty military will also fly in times of conflict. Both flags fly alongside the U.S. and California state flags.
The plaza also displays the Prisoners of War-Missing in Action flag, a green flag designating the Port of Long Beach as an environmentally responsible facility and flags commemorating the U.S. Bicentennial.