Filipino Mother of Dead American Soldier Denied Gold Star

The mother of a U.S. Army staff sergeant killed in Afghanistan has been denied membership in the Gold Star Mothers organization because she is Filipino, and thus not a U.S. citizen.

Mother of slain soldier rejected by Gold Star organization (AP)

Everyone agrees that Ligaya Lagman is a Gold Star mother, part of the long line of mournful women whose sons or daughters gave their lives for their country. Her 27-year-old son, Army Staff Sgt. Anthony Lagman, was killed last year in Afghanistan when his unit came under fire during a mission to drive out remnants of Taliban and al-Qaida forces. But the largest organization of these women, the American Gold Star Mothers Inc., has rejected Lagman, a Filipino, for membership because — though a permanent resident and a taxpayer — she is not a U.S. citizen. “There’s nothing we can do because that’s what our organization says: You have to be an American citizen,” national President Ann Herd said Thursday. “We can’t go changing the rules every time the wind blows.”

That explanation isn’t satisfying the war veterans who sponsored Lagman’s application, some other members of the mothers’ group or several members of Congress. “It is disheartening that any mother of a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine who has died in the line of duty would be denied membership in an organization that honors the memory of fallen service men and women,” said Rep. Nita Lowey, whose district includes Lagman’s home in Yonkers. Rep. Eliot Engel, who represents an adjoining district, said the group should change its rules immediately. “Whatever the excuse, American Gold Star Mothers’ decision smacks of xenophobia and is in stark contrast to what Mrs. Lagman’s son fought and died for,” Engel said. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said, “We now have many noncitizens serving honorably in our armed services, and I hope that this can be satisfactorily resolved.”

A past president of the mothers’ group, Dorothy Oxendine, of Farmingdale, said, “There’s no discrimination in a national cemetery. There’s no discrimination when they get killed side by side. So how can we discriminate against a mother?”

While private organizations have every right to decide who to grant membership to, this is an embarrassing situation and incredibly hurtful to Mrs. Lagman. It’s clearly time for American Gold Star Mothers to change their rules so that the mother of any U.S. serviceman killed in combat is eligible.

Doing that is hardly “changing the rules every time the wind blows.” The purpose of the organization is to honor those who have lost a son fighting for our country. Mrs. Lagman certainly qualifies.

via Memeorandum

FILED UNDER: Afghanistan War, General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Just Me says:

    I admit I didn’t even know this organization existed.

    I am not sure what the purpose is for requiring US citizenship for membership anyway. Doesn’t really make sense, and it isn’t like changing a rule regarding citizenship changes the purpose of the organization.

    Just gives bad press to the organization.

  2. Chris Short says:

    Agreed. What would SSG Lagman want?

  3. Michael says:

    I don’t know. Clearly the majority has made a decision here about who is rightfully entitled to something.

    We might not like that the AGSM has rules that exclude certain people from the benefits they offer, but clearly, the organization is not ready to accept an outsider into their institution.

    In time, maybe 10-20 years, America will be ready to give a Filipino the Gold Star. We have to respect the decision of the membership.

  4. whatever says:

    How about I tell you who you should link to?

    Better yet, how about we pass a law making you the World Decider for Membership of All Clubs? Your decision making in membership is clearly superior to those people who actually belong to any organization, and obviously clubs should automatically admit anyone you feel sorry for.

  5. Are they a private organization? See

  6. McGehee says:

    Hey “Whatever,” did you miss this part:

    While private organizations have every right to decide who to grant membership to…


    Is there by any chance an alternative organization with more sensible rules? If not, and if the AGSM is indeed a private organization, then perhaps somebody ought to start a rival organization that better grasps that even non-citizens are capable of giving their lives for this country.

  7. herb says:

    Ann Herd is what one would call a “Horses Ass”.

    By the way, I just let a little wind blow and I hope it floats by Ann Herds nose to remind her of her attitude.

  8. SheRa says:

    For god’s sake, she gave a hell of a lot more to the United States than most people–including me–would ever want to give. Aside from hurting a person who doesn’t deserve it, Ann Herd’s bad deeds include making all Gold Star mothers look like a bunch of racists.

  9. carpeicthus says:

    This pisses me off. My great-grandmother was a Gold Star Mother in WWII. I admire the institution, so I hate to see them do something like this. Thank God she was a citizen, though her parents weren’t, or her running of local war charities and raising, on her own, of two proud soldiers in WWII (one who was within about 10 yards of the famous raising of the flag on Suribachi) would have been unworthy of recognition.

  10. Robert Harrison says:

    This decision by the Gold Star Mothers has the fingerprints of a Fat Head all over it.