Delaware's Gold Star Families will be honored with a special dinner Sept. 21 at the Modern Maturity Center, Dover.

What is it that compels people to willingly put their lives on the line for their country?

The question has as many answers as individuals who have served. But no matter the reason, the men and women who have donned the uniform of their nation know the risks. Whether they return home to their loved ones or are carried home by an honor guard, they know why they do what they do.

Honoring those men and women who have given their lives while in the Armed Forces of the United States will be the focus of the first dinner planned for Delaware’s Gold Star Families, to be held Sept. 21 at the Modern Maturity Center, Dover.

This will be the first of what hopefully will become an annual event in Delaware, said Judy Campbell, Delaware’s coordinator for the U.S. Army’s Survivor Outreach Program.

In announcing the memorial dinner, Campbell was joined by Irene Turnage, wife of U.S. Army Maj. Carson J. Turnage Jr., an explosives expert killed by a drunk driver in February 1973, and Judith Thompson, whose son, Sgt. Jarrett B. Thompson, was injured on Aug. 30, 2003, in Iraq when a car hit his convoy truck. Thompson died at Walter Reed U.S. Army Medical Center a week later.

Campbell’s brother, U.S. Army Spec. Keith A. Campbell was a medic who was killed in February 1967 in Vietnam while giving First Aid to a wounded soldier. Campbell was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions.

Delaware is one of the few states to observe the nationwide Gold Star Mothers and Family Day, held on the last Sunday in September. The dinner was scheduled for the week before to avoid any conflicts with other observances.

Gold Star Mothers and Family Day has been officially recognized for the past five years with a proclamation by Gov. Jack Markell.

“We want this one to be the best ever,” Campbell said. “Delaware has hit the mark on serving military families.”

“Delaware is the model for the nation as to how we honor our Gold Star families,” she added.

“Delaware is proud of its military veterans and their families,” said Tom Daws, president of the New Castle County Chapter 83, Vietnam Veterans of America. “Without the families, you wouldn’t have a military. They support the military.”

The Gold Star Mothers was formed after the end of World War I to memorialize the sacrifices made by their children during the conflict, and in 1936 President Franklin D. Roosevelt set the last Sunday of September as Gold Star Mothers Day. Today, among its other missions, the organization works to perpetuate the memories of those lost in any war of which the United States is a part, and works to assist veterans and their kin in receiving benefits due them through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The organization recognizes the sacrifices of Gold Star families with two lapel pins: one to recognize the families of those killed in combat or through acts of terrorism, the other to honor those whose lives were lost during non-combat service while on active duty.

The Gold Star Mothers and Family Day dinner will feature an honor guard by the First State Young Marines, a rendition of the National Anthem by Dover’s Lori Christiansen and musical accompaniment by members of the Delaware National Guard’s 287th Army Band.

The keynote speaker is Medal of Honor recipient U.S. Marine Corps retired Maj. Gen. James E. Livingstone. He earned the Medal of Honor as the result of his actions, even though wounded three times, in directing an attack against enemy forces in May 1968.

Tickets for the event are $35 apiece and are available by sending a check to VVA Chapter 83, Gold Star Program, P.O. Box 8167, Wilmington, DE 19803.

For more information, call (302) 326-7787 or email