After CNN report, White House bringing back program for Gold Star families to honor service members buried abroad

The White House is pushing to reestablish a program for Gold Star families to honor their loved ones buried in American military cemeteries overseas after the shuttered program was featured in a CNN report, a White House official exclusively tells CNN.

Biden administration officials have worked with the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) to restore the program, which allows Gold Star families to have flowers placed on their loved one’s grave at US military cemeteries abroad.

“The White House worked with the ABMC and this program will now be re-established,” the official said. It is expected to be included in the coming budget year.

For years, Gold Star families who lost loved ones in battle could pay for flowers and have the ABMC deliver them to the grave of their fallen family members in, say, Normandy. That program ended in 2015.

On the 80th anniversary of D-Day, CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper” reported on the loss of the program.

Rondy Elliott, a Gold Star daughter, lost her father, Corporal Frank Elliott, during the Normandy invasion 80 years ago.


“This is my father’s grave in Normandy with flowers,” she told CNN, holding up a photograph showing that image from years before. “People walk into the cemeteries; they see these flowers and they know that there’s somebody at home that still cares about that soldier.”

A White House official told CNN that the Biden administration had seen CNN’s reporting, and said that “because of how deep and personal this is to the president, the White House acted quickly. Chief of Staff Jeff Zients directed the team to pull all levers to get this program running and stayed on top of it personally to make sure it was done.”

Retired Marine General John Kelly, who helped bring the cause to CNN’s attention, said Wednesday that “this decision to reinstate the flowers program is simply the right thing to do.”

“I know the Gold Star Families from every conflict will rejoice at this decision. Families who carry in their hearts every minute of every day the sadness of having lost one so precious, but also carry in their hearts the intense pride in their sacrifice that never goes away,” Kelly said.

The White House official cautioned that “it will take time for the ABMC to reestablish the program after it being dismantled for about a decade,” though they “expect it to be up and running some time in Fiscal Year 2025 (this coming budget year starting this October) and we will work with the ABMC to get it online as fast as possible.”

Americans, Kelly told CNN, owe service members “everything.”

“The men and women who serve in the forces that guard our country and our way of life –particularly the million plus who since the birth of our Republic willingly sacrificed their lives for us – are selfless heroes,” Kelly said. “It does not matter if they are buried in Arlington, in any one of our 26 military cemeteries around the globe, lost at sea, or buried in local hometown cemeteries across America. They deserve to be remembered by every citizen of our great nation.”

“They earned it by their actions on the battlefield. If, God forbid, we ever forget them shame on us. We owe them everything.”

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