Louisiana Gold Star Mother graphic 

Human Condition: The story of one Louisiana WWI Gold Star Mother 

By John Singleton
via The Advocate newspaper (LA) web site 

Editor's note: Sept. 26 is Gold Star Mother’s Day, which is observed in the United States on the last Sunday of September each year. It is a day for people to recognize and honor those who have lost a son or daughter serving the United States Armed Forces.

After World War I, the United States Government was under great pressure from the families of soldiers who died in Europe.

This had been the first major foreign war the U.S. had ever been involved in, so it was a bit of on-the-job-training when it came to the war dead.

Although it took over 10 years after the signing of the Armistice in 1918, Congress voted to approve funding for what became known as “The Gold Star Mother’s Pilgrimage.” Congress allocated $5 million, not an insignificant sum of money during the Great Depression.

The specifics of the program were fairly straightforward: The government would pay all expenses to send the mothers via ocean liners to visit their son's graves in Belgium, England and France, where most of the soldiers were buried.

Lenora Vaughan was a Louisiana Gold Star Mother with a unique story.

Her son, Elwood Jacob Vaughan, was born in Pecan Island on July 11, 1892, and, like thousands of other young American men, registered for the draft for the First World War. Mrs. Vaughan, a widow, and her children scratched out a living farming, but after Elwood left for France, she moved the family to Arkansas.

Pvt. Vaughan died in France, not from a bullet or a grenade, but from pneumonia, yet another casualty of the Spanish Influenza pandemic. After learning of her boy’s death, Mrs. Vaughan held out hope that some day she’d save enough money for a trip to Elwood’s grave.

As if her life hadn’t had enough setbacks, her little farm in Rex, Arkansas, was wiped out by a tornado. Her hopes reemerged in 1930 when she received her invitation for the pilgrimage.

Although she lived in Arkansas, she decided she wanted to follow her son’s trek as accurately as possible, so she scraped together a few dollars to make the trip from Arkansas to Pecan Island, allowing her to take the same 10:25 train that carried Elwood and other boys from Vermillion Parish. 

Read the entire article on The Advocate web site web site.

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