Photo by James V. Carroll

New tax status for Blue Star Salute

The Indiana Blue Star Salute, which has grown over the past five years into a major multi-state event to honor the families of those who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces, recently received a 501c3 nonprofit tax designation. The approval opens the door for the program, coordinated by six Indianapolis-area American Legion posts, to receive donations from foundations that require the status in order to make contributions.

Coming off the biggest Blue Star Salute to date, event chairman Ralph “Zoc” Zoccolillo of Avon, Ind., Post 145, says the new status “opens up an incredible world for us financially, which is great because this year we incurred expenses like never before.”

Each year, hundreds of Blue Star and Gold Star families attend the event honoring their sacrifices. Families receive Blue Star Banners, which The American Legion reintroduced nationally shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The banners, commonly seen hanging in American windows during World War I and World War II, include one blue star for every family member in harm’s way. Gold Star Banners have gold stars to indicate a family’s loved one made the ultimate sacrifice in uniform.

The fifth annual Indiana Blue Star Salute on June 19, 2010, at Stout Field included a concert by country star and Legion spokesman Michael Peterson, appearances by the Indianapolis Colts cheerleaders and the Indiana Pacers Pacemates, along with a massive 800-bike caravan of Legion Riders, ceremonies to honor the families, activities for young people, sky divers and a Huey fly-in.

U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., U.S. Rep. Brad Ellsworth, D-Ind., Indiana National Guard Adjutant Gen. Martin Umbarger and immediate past American Legion Department Commander Robert Newman were among the speakers who paid tribute to the families at this year’s event. Click here for coverage of the 2010 Blue Star Salute.

The sixth annual event is set for June 18, 2011, at Stout Field. Click here for more information, or click here to find Indiana Blue Star on Facebook. 

Legion posts in Avon, Speedway, Brownsburg, Danville, Pittsboro and Plainfield collaborate to put on the event, which has received growing participation and support from the Indiana business and military communities. Zoccolillo says he is always looking to add more Legion posts as partners in the event.

Some charitable foundations in the state have wanted to donate to the Indiana Blue Star Salute but were restricted by their own policies that call for the 501c3 status, Zoccolillo said. Legion posts are designated as 501c19 veterans organizations.The official name of the nonprofit corporation is the Indiana Blue Star Military Family Program, Inc.

Zoccolillo says he and others would like to see the event replicated in other states around the nation. “With the 501c3, we can reach out across the levels, to states, individuals, groups, organizations that want to support what we are doing,” Zoccolillo said. “Ultimately, what I would like to see happen is an Ohio Blue Star Salute, an Illinois Blue Star Salute, and others. We are a proven model. If you take the national program and run with it, there is no reason on earth every state should not do one. It’s turned into an incredible program and an incredible day.”