There are 2 different pins. Which one you are awarded depends on the circumstances of your loved one's death.
However, membership in American Gold Star Mothers is available to mothers with either pin. We make no distinction. Each child is precious and we don't believe that the circumstance of your child's death, is important. All served and all undertook the associated risks.
The following relatives of the deceased are entitled to one or the other of the pins below:
Widow, Widower, Mother, Father, Stepmother/father, Mother/father through adoption, Foster mother/father in loco parentis, Son, Daughter, Stepson/daughter, Son/daughter by adoption, Brother, Sister, Half brother/sister.
Gold Star Lapel Pin
This pin (see pg 457 (k)) is awarded only to the relatives of those killed in specific conflicts listed in the "Information" section on the back of DD Form 3. If your loved one was killed during the time period of one of these conflicts, but not in the official area of the conflict you will receive the Next of Kin Lapel Pin. For example, if, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, a service member was assigned to a unit in Germany and was killed in a training accident, you would not be entitled to the Gold Star Lapel Pin.
The Gold Star Lapel Pin was established by Act of Congress (Pub. L. 80-306) on August 1, 1947 to identify widows, parents and next of kin of service members killed in certain operations defined by the law. While enacted after WW II, the award authority is retroactive to WW I, and includes most subsequent conflicts.
As far as we can tell DD Form 3 has not been updated since Feb 2000 but Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) are included. War on Terror operations in Africa and the Philippines are not. A review of DD Form 3 is to be undertaken soon according to the DoD.
If you have not received your pin you can apply yourself using Defense Dept Form 3. The form is in pdf format which means you must have Adobe Reader installed on your computer. You can fill out the form on your screen and then click the "Print For" button to print it out on your printer.
If others in your family have not received their pins, make copies of the form for them also. You can print the blank form to make multiple copies before filling it out for yourself.
Please note the following:
If your loved one is recently deceased and you know your casualty officer, he should be able to help you get the pin.
If you are mailing in DD Form 3, include a copy of DD-1300, Report of Casualty. This is the military equivalent of a death certificate. Even though this is not mentioned on the DD-3 instructions, you will likely be rejected for "insufficient proof" if you don't include it.
Next of Kin Lapel Pin
The Lapel Button, Next of Kin of Deceased Personnel (see pg 458 (1)), is authorized for issue retroactive to March 29, 1973. If you are a relative listed above and your loved one died while on active duty or while assigned to an Army Reserve or Army National Guard unit in a drill status, but under circumstances that do not qualify you for the Gold Star Lapel Pin, you should be entitled to the Next of Kin Lapel Pin.
You may request issue of the pin by writing to the National Personnel Records Center at:
National Personnel Records Center
1 Archives Drive
St. Louis, MO 63138
Furnish the name, grade, SSN, and date of death of the deceased soldier. The names and relationships of the next of kin must also be provided.