The last Sunday in September is a special day for For Karla Colclough of Libby, even though it means she is something no mother wants to be.
Colclough is a Gold Star Mother, and on the last Sunday of every September — Sept. 24 this year — falls Gold Star Mother’s Day, a day to honor women whose sons or daughters lost their lives while serving in the United States Armed Forces.
Jacob Colclough was 17, a senior at Libby High School and a member of the National Guard when on March 6, 2010 he died in a two-car crash on the drive home from a meeting of his unit in Kalispell. The crash also claimed the lives of a woman and two of her grandchildren.
Gold Star Mother’s Day evolved from a tradition started in World War II, when service flags adorned with blue stars were hung in homes and businesses in honor of a son serving in active duty. According to a Department of Defense website, “As men were killed in combat, the gold star was superimposed on the blue star to honor the person for his ultimate sacrifice to the country.”
Karla Colclough said the day now honors women “equally regardless of how our fallen soldier died,” though it took her a few years after Jacob’s death to muster the courage to attend an annual event held in Ronan’s Bockman Park, one of the few places in the country to have a monument honoring Gold Star Mothers.
“I didn’t feel like I belonged because he didn’t die in theater,” she said.
But at the event she learned other mothers had also lost sons or daughters outside of combat, whether in crashes or to suicide or some other cause.
“Each one of us looks at each other like we are the same,” Karla Colclough said. “We are mothers who have lost a child.”
She’s quick to point out, however, that despite its name the holiday honors more than just mothers.
“We recognize the whole family,” she said.
Stella Sharp, past president of Libby VFW Post No. 1548, said a few years ago they began referring to the holiday as Gold Star Parent’s Day and started taking parents to lunch at the Venture Inn that day.
“We’ve been doing this for several years now,” Sharp said. Previously they invited parents to the VFW for tea and cake and just to visit, she said.
Sharp said the first year they had window banners made for the parents, she said. Now in addition to buying lunch they might purchase corsages, pins or other small gifts.
Karla Colclough said it’s difficult to describe what Gold Star Mother’s Day means to her. Her voice quiets as she tries to collect thoughts that can’t quite coalesce. She says it’s a way for families to honor their fallen and to feel united in their grief, but that’s not quite it either.
Then her mind clears and a simple explanation appears.
“Thats Jacob’s day,” Karla Colclough said. “And it’s my day because of it.”