Dozens of veterans, community leaders and white-clad mothers of fallen soldiers joined city officials at a historic flag-raising ceremony Thursday at City Hall Plaza, where Long Beach became the first city in the country to fly both the Gold Star and Blue Star Flags in a civic space.

The request to fly the flags was made by the American Gold Star Manor as well as the Blue and Gold Star Mothers; the request was unanimously approved June 18 by the City Council. The two flags will permanently fly side by side at City Hall Plaza with a plaque installed at the base that will highlight the August 15 flag dedication and remind visitors what the two flags represent. 

“This will be a permanent reminder because, as we know, when people come and see these flags, they don’t quite understand it,“ said 5th District Councilmember Gerrie Schipske, who helped sponsor the request to fly the two flags. “It’s not something that’s taught in school and it’s something that we need to remind people of the significance.”

Before the presentation of the Gold Star Flag, which recognizes the mothers who’ve lost children to war, and the rendition of Taps (a traditional military song played at funerals and flag ceremonies) by Sgt. Aaron Alu, Vice Mayor Robert Garcia spoke of his own personal journey of becoming a citizen and his own family’s military history.

“When I look at all of you it gives me a lot of pride and a lot of love and I’m thankful for the service of your families and your sons and daughters,” Garcia said to the mothers and veterans in attendance.

Schipske, who played an integral role in bringing the event to Long Beach, recognized the work that the American Gold Star Manor does in providing low-income senior housing to both veterans and to Gold Star Mothers. Having experienced living in Naval housing, Schipske felt it appropriate that Long Beach—one of the few cities so connected to the Gold Star Mothers—be the first to publicly display their colors.

“Long Beach has always been deeply supportive of our soldiers and their families,“ Schipske said in a press release. “We are the only city which has an affordable housing community dedicated to providing a place to live for senior Gold Star Mothers and Veterans. It is fitting to be the first American city to permanently display these two flags at City Hall.”

The Blue Star Flag was patented by WWI Army Capt. Robert L. Queisser and became the unofficial symbol for families with a child in armed services and is flown whenever our nation is involved in an active conflict. The Gold Star Flag recognizes mothers who have lost children in the armed services. The United States Congress has given permission to individual organizations to display these flags but until now, no city has flown these flags in commemoration of the mothers of services members.

Schipske though, is hopeful that some day soon, only the Gold Star Flag will be waving in the wind at City Hall.

“We’re hoping that at some point that the Blue Star Flag can be taken down, not because we don’t want to recognize but because we hope there is no hostility or conflict that we are involved in,” Schipske said.

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.