TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — A group in northern Michigan is hoping to raise $60,000 to commission a life-sized bronze statue of a gold star mother clutching a folded flag.

Starla Owens, who heads the group, Northern Michigan Blue to Gold Star Mothers Inc., told the Traverse City Record-Eagle ( ) that she wants to make sure people don’t forget about people like her son, Army Spc. Jospeph Lancour. He was killed in 2007 at age 21 while on patrol in Afghanistan.

“We want people to ask us about our children. We want people to say, ‘Tell me about your son’ or, ‘Tell me about your daughter,'” she said. “We don’t want people to forget them. Those memories are our treasures.”

The title “gold star” is based on a World War I tradition in which families hung a flag or banner with a blue star for each son serving in the war. The blue stars were covered in gold if a soldier was killed.

Owens’ group is working with the Grand Traverse Area Veterans Coalition to honor the area’s gold star families. The group aims to install a life-size sculpture in Grand Traverse Area Veterans Memorial Park.

Ted Arens, a Vietnam veteran and member of the coalition, and his wife, Pamela, pledged $15,000 to begin a gold star mothers endowment fund through the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation. They are raising money to pay for the statue, base and an engraving that explains the significance of gold star families.

“We grieve and we hear the same words — sometimes people say, ‘Thank you for your son’s service’ — but they don’t understand how we grieve,” Owens said. “This statue shows that reality.”

Vietnam War veteran Calvin Murphy said he hopes the statue will honor the plight of the families of those killed.

“Every year we remember the deceased veterans, and it seems like the families are forgotten,” Murphy said. “They’re the ones that live on with the grieving.”

Information from: Traverse City Record-Eagle,

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