The unveiling of Owensboro’s Gold Star Families Memorial Monument was an emotional day for many, especially for those who laid red carnations at the base of the granite monument in remembrance of their loved ones. The first of its kind in Owensboro, this long-awaited monument pays tribute to fallen war heroes and to the families who’ve been forced to carry on without them.
The Hershel “Woody” Williams Medal of Honor Foundation designed and created the monument for Owensboro’s Gold Star families, and Williams explained its importance before a large crowd Tuesday.
“As we pause in the quietness of this moment, many memories are going through our minds,” he said. “Our hearts are telling us that this memorial will be a lasting tribute and honor to our loved ones, so that their sacrifice will never be forgotten.”
Williams, a retired United States Marine Corps warrant officer who received the Medal of Honor for heroism during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II, said the sacrifice made by those who’d lost their lives fighting for freedom should not be forgotten.
“We know this memorial will not take away the pain, the heartache or the grief, but perhaps it will give solace to those who sacrificed their most precious gift — the gift of their own,” he said.
More than $60,000 was raised to go toward the monument. 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 other side tells a story through the four granite panels: homeland, family, patriot and sacrifice. That side of the monument reflects the Daviess County community within those panels. At the center of the monument is a silhouette of a soldier, representing all of the loved one who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was present at the unveiling, along with Congressman Brett Guthrie. Guthrie gave an emotional speech about a family member of his own who’d died in battle, and how important the monument was to him and his family.
“My grandmother was a Gold Star mother,” he said. “My dad’s oldest brother was killed in the Korean War in 1952 … my dad talks about being a 12-year-old boy sitting in his house, and how his father gathered them together to read a telegram, to tell them their brother wasn’t coming home again. He’d be 90 if he was still alive, and I absolutely get emotional about it.”
Meanwhile, McConnell noted the heroic efforts made by Williams in erecting Gold Star monuments, even long after his military career had ended.
“For some, a Medal of Honor would be a cherished capstone of service to our country. But for Woody, who received our highest honor way back in 1945, it was just a new beginning,” McConnell said.
McConnell singled out Owensboro Gold Star mother Cathy Mullins, whose son Brandon was killed in Afghanistan by an “improvised explosive device” at only 21 years old.
“Brandon was the third generation of his family to wear our nation’s uniform. He was someone who always sought out the tough jobs, doing them all with a smile,” McConnell said. “After Brandon made the ultimate sacrifice in 2011, I’m so grateful that Cathy has continued making our nation a better place.”
The Gold Star Families Memorial Monument is located next to the Charles E. Shelton Memorial at 119 East Veterans Blvd.