The ceremonial groundbreaking for the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument will take place Thursday in downtown Owensboro. The long-awaited project serves as a tribute to families and relatives who sacrificed a loved one for America’s freedom, and the two-sided, black granite monument will be unveiled in late August.
Due to social distancing guidelines public attendance will be limited, but residents can watch the ceremony live through the City of Owensboro’s Facebook page at 3 p.m. The monument will be erected next to the Charles E. Shelton Memorial at 991 West Veterans Blvd.
Mayor Tom Watson cited the monument as one of the most meaningful projects in which he’d ever partaken.
“I’ve probably never been this excited about anything I’ve had the chance to be a part of,” he said. “It will serve as a lasting memory for all those who lost a loved one.”
The monument, arranged and designed through the Hershel “Woody” Williams Medal of Honor Foundation, is a two-sided tribute. 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 will reflect the Daviess County community specifically, in that the scenes on each panel will be a reflection of the community’s Gold Star Families and their fallen heroes.
At the center of the tribute is a silhouette of the loved one who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom. Gold Star Mother Cathy Mullins, who lost her 21-year-old son Brandon while he was serving in Afghanistan, said that silhouette is especially important to those who’ve lost loved ones in combat.
“The most compelling part of it to me is the cutout of the soldier. When the shadow hits it at a certain time of day, it’s like the soldier is with us,” she said. “It’s designed that way. That cutout represents all of those who died during their service.”
There won’t be any individual names inscribed onto the monument, and Mullins said that’s one of the most beautiful aspects of it. She said it symbolizes all of the soldiers, airmen and airwomen, sailors, marines, and members of the coast guard who’ve sacrificed their lives for their country.
Though Watson said he’s disappointed that a big groundbreaking ceremony can’t be held in person, a larger-scale dedication will make up for that on Aug. 25, when the monument is unveiled.
“We feel like it’s going to be one of the most beautiful memorial monuments in the area,” he said.
Though it’s a “bittersweet” moment for Mullins, who will speak at Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony, she said her family is honored, humbled and incredibly thankful to the community for supporting the military and veterans like they do.
“For it to be so highly visible, always there in the most prominent place in our community — that’s so important,” she said. “I’m an elementary school teacher, and this is a great spot for teachers to take their students. There will be more education pieces that complement the monument in the near future.”
The monument will also symbolize the sacrifice made by her own son — a young man she called “outgoing and caring” and who died doing what he loved by serving his country.
“He really gave a name, and a face, and a family to what the war costs,” she said. “Brandon is still living on through his story.”