Gold Star families break ground for own memorial

Medal of Honor recipient Hershel 'Woody' Williams along with Gold Star family members participate in the ceremonial groundbreaking for a new Gold Star Family Memorial ceremony at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, Sept. 28. During the ceremony, the crowd heard from several people including Williams and Gold Star parents Jim and Leslie Groves. (U.S. Air Force photo/Wesley Farnsworth)

Medal of Honor recipient Hershel 'Woody' Williams along with Gold Star family members participate in the ceremonial groundbreaking for a new Gold Star Family Memorial ceremony at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, Sept. 28. During the ceremony, the crowd heard from several people including Williams and Gold Star parents Jim and Leslie Groves. (U.S. Air Force photo/Wesley Farnsworth)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- For their sacrifice and what they’ve endured in the loss of their loved one, Gold Star families deserve a monument in every state, says the last surviving Marine who was awarded a Medal of Honor during World War II.

Hershel “Woody” Williams, Gold Star families and others gathered the afternoon of Sept. 28 for a symbolic groundbreaking for a Gold Star Family Memorial Monument in the Memorial Garden at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

The Hershel “Woody” Williams Medal of Honor Foundation is sponsoring the installation with the support of other organizations like the Marine Corps League, Young Marines, Navy League and Gold Star families.

“We stand here as a result of and in recognition of the sacrifices of our fellow Americans – Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guard who gave their very life in defense of our nation,” said Naval LT-JG Matthew Previtts, the event’s narrator. “Today, we pledge their gift to us and the price paid by their families will be forever remembered.”

He defined a Gold Star family member as any father, mother, brother, sister, son, daughter or relative who has lost a loved one in service to the nation.

“That is what will be constructed here, a monument memorial to their sacrifice and the sacrifice of their loved one,” Previtts said.

Gold Star father Jim Groves thanked Williams and his foundation for his vision in creating the monument.

“As Gold Star parents, we know all too well that this country was founded one folded flag at a time,” he said. “It is a national debt that can never be repaid.”

The monument will be one of two dozen across the United States, and 51 other monuments under way in 37 states. Honoring Gold Star families is very personal to Williams.

Before joining the Marine Corps, he delivered death notices to families during WWII. In the Battle of Iwo Jima, Williams was said to have displayed “valiant devotion to duty” and service above self as he “enabled his company to reach its objective.” His actions, commitment to his fellow service members and heroism were recognized on Oct. 5, 1945, when he received the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Harry Truman.

After his 20 years of service in the Marine Corps and the Marine Corps Reserves, he worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs for 33 years.

“It is you that we honor,” Williams remarked to the Gold Star families present. “Your presence speaks louder than any words. It says that you are an American in the very truest sense. Your presence says to those who lost a loved one serving America that they are the true heroes of our country, and the monument will say, ‘They will not be forgotten.’”

He also said he hoped today’s youth will visit the monument and perhaps, for the first time, gain some realization of “the sacrifices that are necessary to keep us a free people” and the gift that is freedom.

“As time goes by, untold young and old will look upon this memorial and in some sense, be aware that it took sacrifices of those who were loved to keep us a free people and in many communities, give all they had so we could be blessed,” Williams said. “We will not forget. We never will.”

He was joined by the Gold Star family members to symbolically break ground, including Lucy and David Luff of Hamilton, whose son, U.S. Army Sgt. David Luff, died in Tikrit, Iraq, in 2010. Sgt.

“I don’t want anybody to forget it,” Lucy Luff said.

Rita Kreitzer, Army survivor outreach services support coordinator, said, “I think (the memorial) is priceless for our Gold Star families. ... The families who are dealing with sacrifice and dealing with their grief, things like this will absolutely help them heal. Although that healing never completes, this certainly helps.”

Memorial monument information is available online at hwwmohf.org and on YouTube at https://youtu.be/uyI5c_2meToh.