OKLAHOMA CITY - One tree. Twenty photos. Twenty pairs of empty boots. Twenty families who gave everything. The Oklahoma National Guard Gold Star
The Oklahoma National Guard Gold Star Tree, which honors the 20 Oklahoma National Guard members who died while serving overseas since 9/11, is on display now through Dec. 28 in the 3rd-floor atrium of the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City.
“I’m proud to join with all Oklahomans in honoring the men and women of our National Guard who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation and our freedoms,” Governor Kevin Stitt said. “By having the Gold Star Tree prominently displayed in the History Center, we honor these selfless military members who left behind fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, spouses and children who mourn their loss not just during the holidays, but every day. Please join my family in remembering and praying for our Oklahoma National Guard Gold Star Families.”
The Gold Star Tree, organized and presented by Debbie Thompson, Linda Harrison, Katherine Mancino, Judy Rau and Jeri Saliba, is decorated with photos and gold stars bearing the name of each Guard member who died overseas.
The term Gold Star family is a modern reference that comes from the service flag. These flags and banners were first flown by families during World War I.
The flag included a blue star for every immediate family member serving in the armed forces of the United States, during any period of war or hostilities in which the armed forces of the United States were engaged. If that loved one died, the blue star was replaced by a gold one - signifying to members of the community the price that family had paid in the cause of freedom.
The Oklahoma National Guard Gold Star Tree honors:
• Sgt. Kyle Brinlee, Pryor, Oklahoma
• Sgt. Buddy Hughie, Poteau, Oklahoma
• CW3 Brady Rudolf, Oklahoma City
• Sgt. Daniel Eshbaugh, Norman, Oklahoma
• Cpl. Michael Thompson, Harrah, Oklahoma
• 2nd Lt. Jered Ewy, Edmond, Oklahoma
• Spc. Augustus Vicari, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
• Staff Sgt. Kirk Owen, Sapulpa, Oklahoma
• Sgt. Anthony Peterson, Chelsea, Oklahoma
• 2nd Lt. Joe Cunningham, Kingston, Oklahoma
• 1st Lt. Damon Leehan, Moore, Oklahoma
• Spc. Joshua Seals, Porter, Oklahoma
• Spc. Christopher Horton, Collinsville, Oklahoma
• Sgt. Bret Isenhower, Seminole, Oklahoma
• Pfc. Tony Potter Jr., Okmulgee, Oklahoma
• Sgt. Mycal Prince, Minco, Oklahoma
• Spc. Francisco Briseno-Alvarez Jr., Oklahoma City
• Spc. Sarina Butcher, Checotah, Oklahoma
• Sgt. Christopher Gailey, Ochelata, Oklahoma
• Tech. Sgt. Marshal Roberts, Owasso, Oklahoma
The Oklahoma History Center is located at 800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive in Oklahoma City. The Center is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission is free for Oklahoma National Guard members and active-duty military with their military identification card.
For more information on visiting the Oklahoma History Center, visit https://www.okhistory.org/historycenter/visitor.