Sherwood's Notebook: A Gold Star Smudge…

Your Notebook remembers Vacation Bible School and our weekly Sunday School. We remember aspects of our early elementary education.

And we remember all the gold stars, those tiny, shiny, sticky, glistening rewards given for attendance, achievement or a particular project well done.

But the fact is, your Notebook didn’t earn many of those stars. We kinda wanted to earn them, as we recall, but we rarely measured up.

We hadn’t thought about Gold Stars until recently. And we mean real gold stars — not the ones given for encouragement, but those given for sacrifice.

It is too early to tell, but Gold Star parents Khizr and Ghazala Khan have given to the nation new meaning to those gold stars.

You would have to be living in isolation to have missed the uproar over Republican nominee Donald Trump’s disdainful dismissal of the Khan parents. Their Muslim son, U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan, died in Iraq in 2004, fighting for the country he and his parents so proudly embraced.

The elder Khan’s seven-minute speech without teleprompter at the Democratic National Convention, his wife standing by his side, has electrified much of the nation. Khan scolded Trump for his lumping of all Muslims as potential terrorists. Trump responded by denigrating the mother for not speaking, suggesting she was not allowed to do so.


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Ghazala Khan has since written that the pain of her son’s death even now left her uncertain whether she could even speak in public about the loss, particularly with his photograph emblazoned on a screen behind the couple.

And in her follow-up Washington Post commentary, she wrote, “Donald Trump has asked why I did not speak at the Democratic convention. He said he would like to hear from me. Here is my answer to Donald Trump: Because without saying a thing, all the world, all America, felt my pain. I am a Gold Star mother. Whoever saw me felt me in their heart.”

Although she could not speak with her broken heart, she conveyed her thoughts clearly in words.

“Donald Trump said that maybe I wasn’t allowed to say anything. That is not true. My husband asked me if I wanted to speak, but I told him I could not. My religion teaches me that all human beings are equal in God’s eyes. Husband and wife are part of each other; you should love and respect each other so you can take care of the family.”

That’s right: Ghazala Khan is a Gold Star Mother.

The official organization, The Gold Star Mothers, Inc., is located right here in the District. The organization is nonpartisan. It is named after the ritual of putting a gold star in the window of a family whose son had died in war.

“We are a Veterans Service Organization, established in 1928 and chartered by the United States Congress in 1984,” its website reads. “American Gold Star Mothers continue to honor our sons and daughters through service — service to veterans and patriotic events. If you have lost a child in the service to our country and would like the community of others in your situation, we invite you to join. No one knows how you feel like another mother who has lost a child.”

Few also would know how it feels to be a Gold Star family held up to insult by a major party’s candidate for president.

We can only wonder what will be discussed when the American Gold Star Mothers hold their annual weekend here Sept. 23.

Candy Martin of San Antonio is the current president of the group that was founded by distraught mother Grace Darling Seibold. She wanted to turn her personal grief into help and recognition for families that had lost a child to war. Families are casualties, too.

In her acceptance speech posted on the group’s website, Martin asked for a favor from all Americans. While many people spontaneously say to veterans and servicemen, “Thank you for your service,” Martin had a different request.

“Reach out! Please extend your hand of friendship to a fellow Gold Star Mother,” she said. “We all know there are thousands of Gold Star Mothers, and I find it sad that not everyone feels the camaraderie we do with our membership in American Gold Star Mothers. Just think of the possibilities of outreach to our veterans and their families if we had more active members.”

Perhaps Trump can call a truce on this subject. Accused by many of megalomania, he has doubled down on never apologizing, hitting back harder than he has been hit. Trump himself has cast the world and this presidential race as either winners or losers.

Surely, the members of Gold Star Mothers of America, no matter their heritage, are deserving of respect for their searing loss of sons and daughters. That’s not political; that’s decency.

The Gold Star organization can be reached at Its offices are located off Connecticut Avenue NW just north of Dupont Circle. Volunteers are welcome.

■ Sour Orange? At-large D.C. Council member Vincent Orange was defeated for re-election. His term expires Jan. 2, 2017, five months from now.

Orange has created a growing firestorm over accepting a new job as head of the DC Chamber of Commerce, a position from which he will lobby for the organization’s many members. Orange told us his new job starts Aug. 15. He says he’s checking with city and council ethics lawyers to avoid any conflicts.

But what may be legally permissible — holding an elected post and a private job as business lobbyist — may be untenable politically.

On the WAMU Kojo Nnamdi Politics Hour last Friday, at-large members Elissa Silverman and David Grosso both questioned Orange’s decision. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson has to decide if Orange should even keep his chairmanship of the Committee on Business, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.

It would seem the mere name of the committee suggests a rampant conflict.

What will Orange do? What will the council members do? What will Mendelson do? Nothing may not be an option.

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.

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