With Veterans Day just around the corner, a retired veteran from Western New York is reminding Americans about a truly patriotic way to honor those who've served our country.
Ralph Brown of Randolph, began the Real American Stars project in 2009 as a way to pay tribute to not only past and present service men and women, but also their immediate family members.
"I wanted to develop a lasting, special way to not only honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their nation, but also the countless mothers whose sons and daughters went off to war and never returned home," Brown says.
As a result, Brown designed and created The Real American Stars, a series of blue or gold metallic stars with inscriptions that identify an individual with ties to military service. The "Gold Star Vet" is used to identify a soldier who gave the ultimate sacrifice, while the "Blue Star Vet" identifies all those who've served in the military. In addition, there are also blue and gold stars designed for the mothers and wives of all those who've served this nation currently or in the past.
Each star is 3.5 inches across from point-to-point and just over 1/8 inch in thickness. All the stars are made of aluminum and electronically plated to prevent weathering. In addition to the main inscription, each of the stars is also inscribed with the words, "Honor," "Courage" and "Glory," which was the motto of the 18th Combat Engineer Battalion, which Brown was a part of during the 1950s.
"These stars are designed to get the attention of anyone in visual eyesight of them," says Brown. "That's especially important for the Gold Star vets, mothers, and wives who've had to endure an unimaginable sacrifice for our country. They deserve to be recognized whenever possible."
Brown says the stars were initially designed to be placed on the headstone of anyone who served the country and any mother whose child served or wife whose husband served. But the stars can also be placed on a vehicle, on a mailbox, and near the entrance to a home.
"The star is a permanent symbol of honor visible to all who enter a cemetery or a home," explains Brown. "It can really be placed anywhere a family wishes to honor its family member who is or was in the military. I've even seen some placed on vehicles.
Initially, anyone interested in purchasing the star had to do so by calling or emailing Brown. But that all changed in September with the unveiling of a new website, www.TheRealAmericanStars.com. Here, costumers can stop by and order as many stars as they want and have them shipped to any location throughout the country.
Each Real American Star costs $24.95 - an affordable price considering the stars are designed to last a lifetime, even when placed outdoors in the most extreme weather conditions.
"These are durable products that will last for a long time," Brown says. "We use a special adhesive that will help keep the stars on the headstones for years so families don't have to worry about them falling off. They're also made of aluminum so they are weather resistant."
Brown adds that the stars are a fitting tribute for any mother or veteran.
"These mothers are the salt of the earth," Brown says. "They should be honored for raising the warriors who've defended our country. I'm doing this because I think Americans should appreciate what they've got and how they got it. Freedom isn't Free."
Because of his involvement in starting up the project at time in his life when most others his age are focused on enjoying their retirement years, the Jamestown, N.Y. Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution will recognize Brown and The Real American Stars project on Oct. 16 during a formal reception at their Prospect St. headquarters.
To learn more about The Real American Stars project or to place an order, go online to www.therealamericanstars.com
or call The Real American Stars office in Randolph, N.Y. at (716) 358-6442.