ELKIN — The VFW Mark Garner Post 7794 in Elkin has been raising funds for a new Gold Star Families Memorial Monument to be erected in Elkin Municipal Park.
The Gold Star Family Memorial was created by Medal of Honor Recipient Hershel “Woody” Williams to honor and remember those families who have made the ultimate sacrifice and lost a loved one in the line of duty.
This monument will represent the region, honoring Gold Star family members spread throughout Northwest North Carolina and Southwest Virginia.
According to information from the VFW, the town of Elkin has already approved placement of this monument in Elkin Municipal Park near the existing VFW flagpole and Chatham Manufacturing Company’s World War II monument.
Gold Star families are honored at the graveside and the names of their loved ones are placed on roads, buildings and ships. However, for the families of these loved ones, it is a different story. They will forever have an empty chair at every meal, every holiday and family gathering. In the words of Gold Star Mother, Beth Garner, “We feel we have been forgotten.” The Hershel “Woody” Williams Medal of Honor Foundation found a remedy to this by setting out to erect monuments intended to honor these families.
Gold Star monuments are impressive in size, standing 6 feet tall and 12 feet long. The monument is a two-sided tribute, weighing 18,000 pounds.
One side bears the words “Gold Star Families Memorial Monument, a tribute to Gold Star Families and Relatives who sacrificed a Loved One for our Freedom.”The opposite side depicts a story through the four granite panels which are homeland, family, patriot and sacrifice. Scenes portrayed on each of the panels are a reflection of each community’s Gold Star families and their fallen heroes. At the center of the monument, is a silhouette to represent the loved one who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
The expected cost of the project, from start to finish, ranges from $65,000-$70,000. The monument itself is composed of black granite which is imported from India.
Jon Garing, who is serving as chairperson for this project, said they are currently at $53,000 of their $70,000 goal. Despite being close to the end of the fundraising, Garing said individuals may still make contributions.
Garing spoke of the importance of these monuments and the value they bring to Gold Star families. There are memorials located throughout the country for several wars including the Vietnam War, Korean War and World War II. However, there isn’t a memorial aside from the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument to honor those who have sacrificed a loved one.
“I’m a Vietnam helicopter survivor, I’m in the VFW. There’s a lot of us in the VFW, yes we were all in a war, we all had our boots on the ground in a war but we did make it back,” Garing said. “There’s a lot who didn’t.”
Garing said they do not put names on the monument because they do not want to miss anybody and unfortunately, there will always be more fallen soldiers.
“This is going to stand the test of time, going forward for anybody else whose family members are lost in a battle,” Garing said.
According to Garing, they have not set the date for the groundbreaking ceremony yet due to COVID-19. The groundbreaking ceremony was originally set to be in April, but had to be postponed due to COVID-19. However, the groundbreaking ceremony will be held as soon as restrictions about events and gatherings are lifted in the state. Garing said the dedication ceremony is set for November 11 and during this time the monument will be unveiled and dedicated in a “very touching” ceremony.
According to information found on the Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation’s website at www.hwwmohf.org, there have already been 60 monuments dedicated through the foundation’s efforts with 70 memorial monuments currently in progress.
Those interested may contribute to this project in two ways. Donations can be mailed directly via USPS with a check or money order to VFW Post 7794, P.O. Box 246, Elkin, NC 28621. Make any checks or money orders payable to VFW Post 7794/Gold Star Memorial or online via the Hershel “Woody” Williams Medal of Honor Foundation. Online donations may be made at elkin firstname.lastname@example.org (Note the blank space to denote the missing person.)
Additional information about the foundation and its efforts is available on the website at www.hwwmohf.org.