Groundbreaking for the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument is set for Saturday, June 29, at 2 pm, at the Forks Transit Center. The public is invited. The Navy Band Northwest will play a medley of tunes prior to the actual ceremony and also following. Chairs will be provided on a first come basis. Please plan for the weather, the event will happen rain or shine, cold or hot. The actual dedication of the monument is scheduled for October as part of Hickory Shirt Days.
The project started last October when VFW members asked the City of Forks and Clallam Transit to place the Gold Star Monument at Forks Transit Center. Then fundraising efforts began to raise the $90,000 required to purchase the beautiful monument which will be placed in the grassy lawn just north of the transit center and south of Peninsula College.
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. This stunning black granite monument features two sides. One side bears the words: Gold Star Families Memorial Monument, a tribute to Gold Star Families and Relatives who have sacrificed a Loved One for our Freedom. The other side tells a story through the four granite panels: Homeland, Family, Patriot, and Sacrifice. The scenes on each panel are a reflection of each community’s Gold Star Families and their fallen Heroes. At the center of this tribute is the most distinct feature of the monument, the cut out which represents the Loved One who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the name of Freedom.
This was the brainchild of Hershel “Woody” Williams. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and served in the Battle of Iwo Jima with the 21st Marines, 3d Marine Division. During the battle, Mr. Williams displayed “valiant devotion to duty” and service above self as he “enabled his company to reach its objective”. Mr. Williams’ actions, commitment to his fellow service members, and heroism were recognized on October 5, 1945, when he received the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Truman at the White House. Mr. Williams is the sole surviving Marine from WWII, to wear the Medal of Honor. He is an amazing gentleman and attends all dedications at the age of 95. His 5 grandsons note how wonderful it is to “hand him off” because Woody exhausts them.
The Gold Star Families Memorial Monument project began as a way to acknowledge and thank Gold Star Families for their enduring sacrifice while ensuring that their fallen Heroes shall never be forgotten.
Unlike today where everything is on social media, back in WWI (1917) Army Capt. Robert L. Queissner of the 5th Ohio Infantry had two sons serving on the front line. He designed and patented a blue star banner which quickly became the unofficial symbol of a child in the service. These hung in windows for all the loved ones in battle until they returned home.
In order to inform the community of the passing of their military hero, the blue star was replaced by a gold star. Every family, even today, pray their blue star shall never turn gold.
As another benefit to some members of the community, on Vietnam veteran said, “Thank you for building this monument, I don’t really qualify as a gold star family member, but in (Viet) Nam, my unit was my brothers…and I lost quite a few. I can’t make it to the Wall, so this is where I can go to reflect and connect.”
This really is a grassroots effort by so many on the Olympic Peninsula. Through the fundraising, many stepped up to do what they could. Just some of the events included breakfasts, percentage of sales, fill the boot, raffles, a Bigfoot taco dinner, generous VFW and American Legion Posts and other veterans’ organizations and sometimes begging. There is also a donation incentive campaign with a monument coin given for a $100 donation or more, and pins for $25 or more. Both the pins and coins were designed specifically for the Forks Gold Star monument. The coins are in limited supply and numbered from 1 to 250. There are a few coins still available.
Committee members who have worked so tirelessly for the completion of this project include Mike McCracken, Bill Plumley, Mike Rowley, Christi Baron, and Janet and Tom Hughes. For more information, call 360-640-1401 or 360-640-2581.