PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island Gold Star Families were honored by the Rhode Island General Assembly, in the honorary naming a stretch of Route 102, known as Chopmist Hill Road, as The Gold Star Family Highway. This tribute was voted unanimously into law during Tuesday’s House Session after receiving unanimous support from the Senate. The bill was sponsored by Minority Whip Michael Chippendale, Rep. David Place and Senator Jessica de la Cruz.
The term “Gold Star” describes a family member who has lost a loved one in military service. The Gold Star first made an appearance during World War I after being placed over a service flag’s blue star when a service member was killed in combat. A gold star became a symbol of the ultimate sacrifice. It has been a symbol of honor that no one wants.
The highway naming distinction includes a creative, collaborative effort with Ponaganset High School. For the past two years, Chippendale, Place and de la Cruz worked with teachers and students to make this honorary title a reality. The Glocester Republicans will also be working to develop a competition to create a design for the highway signage, with the winner receiving a $1,000 college scholarship personally provided for by the legislators. This fall, incoming seniors are eligible to enter a design concept for the signs. Chippendale, Place and de la Cruz will also personally fund the manufacturing of the signs, and students will help install as part of their community service requirement, so there will be no cost to the state or towns.
“It is important for all of us to remember that service members don’t serve alone,” said Ponaganset US History teacher Christopher Stanley, a partner in the Gold Star Family Highway project. “In 2015, there was a reported total of 1,728,710 family members who served alongside their Active Duty service member across the nation. Of that number, there were 1,076,803 children and 641,639 spouses. Whether or not someone living in Rhode Island has a family member serving in the Armed Services, chances are they know a family member of someone that does. Even more striking, chances are they also know someone or a family who has sacrificed everything in service to our nation. These heroes are our Gold Star Families. They are the immediate family members of a fallen service member who died while serving in a time of conflict.”
“I am honored to have been a part of this project,” said Chippendale. “I feel it’s just one small way to show our gratitude to those families who’ve lost a loved one in the defense of our nation, while at the same time getting the students involved with the project from design to installation.”
“It is important, in an era where so few Americans serve, to continuously remind ourselves about not just those that paid the ultimate price, but also the families that continue to mourn their loss,” said Place. “It is a testament to the young men and women of Ponaganset High School’s Class of ’20 to be so aware of the sacrifices our RI families have made.”
“We promise those in service, those that served and those that stay here on the home front supporting them, that ‘we will never forget,’” said de la Cruz. “In our own small way, we are keeping that promise to those families who ultimately gave it all for our country, through the heroic acts of their loved one. It is so rewarding to have this project come to fruition. I am excited to work with our students in the upcoming months. This is civics education at its best.”
The signs are expected to be installed in the spring of 2020.