An effort that originated to honor military families with a postage stamp has taken a major legislative step forward.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., has officially introduced legislation to re-issue the Gold Star stamp to recognize the sacrifices of families who have lost a child or loved done in military service.

The new issue would be an update of the old stamp first issued in 1948 that honored Gold Star mothers who lost sons in World War II. The new effort originated from a suggestion made to Blumenthal by Greenwich resident Joe Kaliko.

“Many people don’t take the time to stop and think about the losses for the families during war,” Kaliko said. “There needs to be more of an effort to remember and respect the families of the fallen, and that’s what we’re trying to do here.”

Kaliko and Blumenthal, who is also a town resident, have worked together closely on a number of projects, particularly through Kaliko’s non-profit organization The Needs Clearing House.

Blumenthal officially introduced the measure to the Senate last week as part of a bipartisan effort with Republican Sen. Joni Ernst from Iowa.

“Gold Star families are national heroes,” Blumemthal said in a statement. “Their extraordinary contribution is beyond measure, not merely for their loss, but the comfort they selflessly provide others, and their model of service and sacrifice. Their strength, courage, resolve and resilience are remarkable beyond words. Reissuing the Gold Star stamp is a small token of our gratitude that will serve as a constant reminder of their sacrifice.”

Ernst noted her home state of Iowa was home to the Sullivan family, who lost five sons in World War II after a deadly torpedo attack sank the cruiser they were on. Their mother, Alleta Sullivan, was the first recipient of the Gold Star stamp in 1948.

Ernst, an Iraq War veteran, said she and Blumenthal, a former Marine, were carrying on the tradition so everyone could have the opportunity to “demonstrate our profound appreciation and respect” for the families of fallen service members.

“There is no greater grief than losing a child, spouse or family member, and no greater sacrifice a family can make than losing their family member in service to our country,” Ernst said in a statement. “Gold Star families carry both of these incredible burdens every day.”

The bill has been referred to the Senate’s Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

While Congress has the power to enact stamps, Blumenthal also contacted Postmaster General Megan Brennan. Brennan said a Gold Star stamp had been considered by the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee, in 2004 but the measure did not go forward.

Brennan’s office said it has shared the suggestion with the committee.

The original stamp, when issued, was not intended to be a permanent stamp. The new stamp would be a “forever” stamp.

Kaliko said he hoped that the stamp would bring in revenue for the government, which could then be directed to veterans’ services. Needs Clearing House, which connects people in need with available services, has worked to help veterans in the past.

“There are needs not being met,” Kaliko said, noting that a similar stamp for breast cancer awareness has brought in millions to fight the disease.

The effort by Blumenthal and Ernst has the support of the American Gold Star Mothers organization. Its national president, Candy Martin, said it would help educate the general public that “freedom is not free.”

Locally, Marine veteran Chris Hughes, commander of Greenwich’s American Legion Post 29, called it a “powerful way to recognize the families that are left behind,” especially for the service and sacrifices of people serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, which he said had been largely overlooked.

Kaliko said he was first inspired to bring the idea to Blumenthal after watching the Democratic National Convention in July and saw the speech by Khizir Khan, whose son was killed while serving in the United States Army in Iraq.

Kaliko said he wanted to do something for families like the Khans who lost a child in service to their country regardless of politics.

“The fear I had was that it would be associated with the Khan speech as a political gesture and this is anything but political," Kaliko said. “This is not about Clinton or Trump or the presidential race. This is about honoring gold star families, and both Sen. Blumenthal and I felt it was very important to get bipartisan support. This is outside the realm of politics. We’re focusing on the families.”

kborsuk@scni.com