Veterans, Gold Star Families in Kentucky recognized by Medal of Honor recipient


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With the wind blowing steady through dozens of American flags, the Veteran and Gold Star Families community in central Kentucky dedicated a new memorial Tuesday in honor of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation.

“Today, we give this monument to the community,” said Chad Graham, president and director of operations for the Hershel “Woody” Williams Medal of Honor Foundation, during the event held at Lexington’s Veterans Park.

Eighteen months after beginning the project, the Lexington community unveiled the state’s third Gold Star Families Memorial Monument. The monument is the 18th tribute placed in honor of Gold Star Families to, according to the foundation’s website, “preserve the memory of the fallen and stand as a stark reminder that freedom is not free.”

“As these members of the Gold Star Families know, nothing can adequately prepare a family for the news that a loved one has perished while serving our country,” Lexington Mayor Jim Gray said. “This extraordinary monument will stand as a reminder of those great sacrifices by all those who served and by the families they have left behind.”

“I have a special appreciation for the Gold Star Families. I don’t think that any of us who have not lost a loved one to war or the service of our nation can truly understand your loss,” Kentucky Lt. Governor Jenean Hampton added. “We truly cannot understand the fullness of your sacrifice, but just know that there are truly grateful Americans who honor you.”

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Click on a photo to view the full image and caption. Photos by VA’s Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs.

Joining monuments at Fort Knox and in Ashland, Kentucky, the Lexington memorial pays tribute to the families of nearly 10,000 Bluegrass state service members killed in the line of duty since World War II and registered with the National Gold Star Family Registry.

Cathy Mullins, president of the Kentucky chapter of Gold Star Mothers, lost her son, PFC Brandon Mullins, in August 2011 during Operation Enduring Freedom.

“We are so thankful for you recognizing the service and the sacrifice and the loss of all of our families. That monument is not just for our families; it’s for the entire community,” she told those gathered for the dedication.  “I love that Lexington has this in a public park where kids are going to see this, they’re going to play around this, they’re going to [ask] ‘What’s that all about?’  They’re going to grow up knowing about Veterans. I applaud the Lexington community for doing this.”

In 2003, Lynn Romans’ son, Sgt. Darrin K. Potter, was serving with the Kentucky National Guard in Iraq when he was killed. Potter was the first Kentucky Guardsman to die in the line of duty since Vietnam. Romans shared her son’s story with the crowd, paying tribute as well to the other Gold Star Families in attendance.

“I’ve come to realize that behind every Gold Star pin is a story of great loss, much heartache, but also I’ve seen much strength,” Romans said. “It is very important to me that the sacrifice of my son, as well as many others who lost their lives and are represented here by loved ones today, never be forgotten.”

The Gold Star Families Memorial Monuments initiative is spearheaded by a former VA employee and Medal of Honor recipient, Marine Veteran Hershel “Woody” Williams.  Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima, is actively working to get monuments placed across the country.

“He is feisty, he is strong, and do not get in Woody Williams’ way,” Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes joked as she referred to Williams’ dedication to the project. “We are grateful for his persistence. We are grateful that he had the foresight to make sure that in every town, whether small or large, across this nation, we stand up and honor our heroes, those that give us the right to live in this free, democratic society.”

“We, the American people, throughout our history have had those among us who have been willing to serve a cause greater than themselves,” Williams explained as he spoke to the audience. “And yet realizing that service, to protect our way of live or to give someone else a life of freedom that they had never known about nor experienced, may require sacrifices honored by this memorial monument.”

“There is no substitute for freedom, a gift almost as precious as life itself. This memorial speaks of those lives, and it speaks for itself. This community is represented in that and on that memorial. We know memorials do not ease the pain…or the heartache or the grief.  But perhaps, the tribute and the recognition will give some peace and solace to the loved ones who sacrificed one of their very most precious gifts, one of their own.”

Veterans and Gold Star Families from across the region, as well as representatives of Veterans service organizations, reserve and active duty service members, Lexington fire fighters and community members attended the Tuesday dedication.

“As an Air Force Iraq War Veteran and VA employee, I was proud to attend the dedication of the Gold Star Family Memorial Monument today in Lexington,” said Juan R. Jackson with VA’s Veterans Experience Office’s southeast district. “It was wonderful to see Medal of Honor recipient Woody Williams come together with state and local officials to honor the families and service members who have given the ultimate sacrifice.”

With 18 monuments now in place, there are still 40 memorials in progress. To find out more about the locations of the memorials, visit the foundation website by clicking here.

 

Author

Megan Moloney

-- Megan joined VA in May 2013. She is the daughter, granddaughter and spouse of Army and Navy Veterans who served in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Comments

  1. Harris Wayne Chambers    

    why was my small va ck cut off ,i went to viet-nam and got shot.

  2. James J. David    

    This story brings back some of my memories when I served in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division in Feb. 1969 to March 1970. I have never been able to mention this because for some reason it has left my mind but this story brings back some of my memory. I remember the Kentucky National Guard once when I was with a rescue and recovery mission and flew with a Warrant Officer Castro. We were there to assist the men at a Fire Base Tomahawk that was under attack. We had some men from a helicopter recovery battery, the 5th Transportation Battalion from the 101st Airborne Division from Camp Eagle in Phu Bai where I was stationed. We tried to land at the fire base but as I remember burning fire was everywhere. I jumped out of the helicopter as we hovered above the ground and twisted my right knee pretty bad. After our mission I remember my knee swelling up for the next few days and the sight of fire base tomahawk and the number of casualties stayed with me for a long time. I later heard that the Kentucky National Guard suffered several casualties in the battle. I remember thinking about their families and it hurt really bad. I kept their families in my prayers. I really can’t remember most of the ordeal but this story brought back some of those memories, memories that I think were intended not to reappear. I want to take this opportunity to thank those mighty and brave men of the Kentucky National Guard. I am 73 years old now and I think this is the first time I have ever mentioned the story. I live in Marietta, Georgia and retired but one thing is for certain, I have so much respect and admiration for the Kentucky National Guard. God Bless you.

  3. Cathy    

    Is there a link to share this article?

  4. Carl G Nilsson    

    Well, who were the MOH honorees’ in the picture?

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