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.
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.