Immediate family members of fallen troops now can receive long-term access cards for Air Force bases thanks to a program launched this month.
The Gold Star Base Access ID program started at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, on May 1 and was implemented servicewide May 15, officials said.
"The chief of staff of the Air Force expressed consideration for more outreach to Gold Star families so they know they will always be part of the Air Force family," said Brooke Brzozowske, an Air Force spokesperson.
"These families have had access to and have received long-term care and support through the Air Force Families Forever program located with Airman and Family Readiness Centers," she added. "The base access cards will make it easier to access support services, attend ceremonies and events."
In the past, Gold Star family members had to be escorted on Air Force bases by a current ID card holder, despite the presence of survivor services programs on base specifically for their use. The new card will allow families to come on base without an escort.
The Army and Navy have similar programs, officials with those services said. The Navy's program, in place since 2014, has issued 559 cards, officials said. Army officials said their program, launched in 2015, issues cards through the DA Form 1602 or "civilian ID card" system. Officials with the Marine Corps did not respond by deadline for requests for information.
Air Force officials said surviving family members will be notified about the new program through mail sent from their closest base. Family members eligible for the card are the same as those eligible to receive the official Gold Star lapel button, including parents, siblings and adult children of those killed in combat.
Widows and minor dependents already have base access through the dependent ID card system.
Card applicants are run through a background check before they are issued the ID.
-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.