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The Army announced last week that it will release three public service announcements over the next year to increase awareness of DOD-issued Gold Star and next-of-kin lapel pins.

Fox Sports aired the first Public Service Announcement in the half-hour before kickoff of Super Bowl XLVIII.

The pins are designed to signify the loss of a loved one in support of the nation. Although the Gold Star pins have been in existence for decades, many Americans are unfamiliar with their meaning. The PSAs were developed to help educate and inform the public of the significance of the pins.

“It’s heartbreaking to think that a mom wearing a Gold Star might have someone ask her, ‘What a beautiful pin, where do I get one?’,” said Donna Engeman, a Gold Star wife who manages the Survivor Outreach Services program for the Army.

“We decided we had to do something to ensure the nation -- the world -- recognizes what that pin really signifies,” Engeman said.

Though the Gold Star and next-of-kin lapel pins are a Department of Defense program, the Army’s Installation Management Command has taken on the mission of educating the public. This year, Gen. Ray Odierno, chief of staff of the Army, directed IMCOM to develop a campaign to inform America of the significance of this symbolic Gold Star pin.

“We’re committed to our survivors,” said Lt. Gen. Mike Ferriter, IMCOM commander. “We owe it to them to ensure they get the support and service they deserve for as long as they need it. Educating the public on the meaning behind the Gold Star pins is simply another way to reaffirm to our survivors that we understand and honor the sacrifices they’ve made for our country.”

The PSAs consist of documentary-style interviews and narrative stories from real survivors who volunteered to be a part of the project. The voice-overs were provided by Academy-award-nominated actor Gary Sinise.

“We tried to ensure the PSAs reflected the diversity of surviving families, as well as honoring their service and sacrifice,” said Hal Snyder, chief of IMCOM’s Wounded and Fallen Support Services office. “The PSAs include moms and dads, brothers and sisters, children, husbands, wives.”

“The point is you might see a Gold Star pin on just about anyone,” Snyder continued, “and we wanted to make sure everyone knows what that pin represents.”

The PSAs also serve to gently remind the American public that the freedom they enjoy comes at a cost, Snyder said.

“The call to action is to honor and learn,” he explained. “Honor those who have fallen, and learn about a small, but meaningful symbol presented to families who have lost a service member.”

The Army also plans an extensive outreach effort through social media and partnerships with corporate America.

“The more people who see these, the greater the opportunity to recognize and honor families of the fallen,” Snyder said.

The Army’s Survivor Outreach Services program currently supports more than 55,900 surviving military family members.