“The letter F in the name Forks stands for First,” said Alfie Alvarado Director of the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs, “Forks is the first town in Washington State to have a Gold Star Families Memorial Monument.”She spoke these words as she addressed the crowd at the Dedication Ceremony for the monument last Saturday afternoon at the Forks Transit Center.
Alvarado also shared that she had brought with her a donation from her department that can be used for future maintenance on the monument. It was nearly one year ago when the VFW and their Auxiliary set up the monument project with the VFW Auxiliary President, Janet Hughes and VFW Commander, Tom Hughes as co-chairs, and community members including Mike McCracken, Mike Rowley, Christi Baron, and Bill Plumley. Elliahna Kilmer recently joined the committee as part of her senior project.
The goal was to raise around $90,000. On Sept. 23, 2019, workers from the Bailey Granite and Monument company out of Kentucky delivered and set up the monument and benches. The monument has been covered since then awaiting the ceremony this past weekend. Pastor Warren Johnson offered the invocation, with Vince Penn of the Quileute Tribe welcoming everyone to Quileute Territory with a traditional welcome song. At the podium, Mayor Tim Fletcher thanked Herschel “Woody” Williams and the committee and said it was a day that would be remembered forever in the history of the West End.
Williams the man behind the monuments spoke next. “This is not about me,” Williams is the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from Iwo Jima, “It is about them, it is long overdue that we recognize and honor those that have sacrificed the most,” Williams explained that during WWI a practice of putting a Blue Star in the window of the home that had a person in the war/military service was started.
If the serviceman was killed then a Gold Star would be placed in front of the Blue Star. The practice was reintroduced in WWII. Williams remembered a neighbor who had died in 1944 in his little community of Quiet Dell, West Virginia. Later he was inspired to create a memorial as a source of comfort and peace to those that have lost family. “Freedom has always required sacrifice, for the families of this area this will not ease the hurt nor take the place of a loved one, but will be a reminder of love and respect.”
Williams read the words to a song written by Steve Bonafel, “The Last Parade” was written in honor of Sgt. Nickolas Carnes of Dayton, KY who was killed in Afghanistan in 2007, it recounts the writer’s thoughts and feelings as he attended the soldier’s funeral.
The purpose of the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument is to honor Gold Star Families, preserve the memory of the fallen, and stand as a stark reminder that Freedom is not free. So far there have been 56 monuments dedicated in 42 states and another 63 are in progress, including monuments in Walla Walla and Lacey, Washington. During the ceremony, The Patriot Guard Riders stood a flag line. US Marines provided the color guard and a rifle volley and at the end of the ceremony the NW Navy band offered an echoing rendition of Taps.