It was a historic day in the state of West Virginia as it welcomes the seventh Gold Star Family Monument, to be built right here in Wheeling.
This special monument honors the families of servicemen and women who sacrificed their lives while serving in the military.
West Virginia native Hershel “Woody” Williams, the sole surviving Medal of Honor recipient of the World War II battle of Iwo Jima was here for this special event. He is also the founder of the Medal of Honor Foundation.
Williams realized that when a loved one made the ultimate sacrifice in the military, the loss affects the entire family. So, he started the memorial project as a way to acknowledge and thank Gold Star families for their sacrifice while ensuring their fallen heroes are never forgotten.
“I decided we must do something in this country to honor not just mom, but we need to honor dad,” Williams explained. “We need to honor grandma, grandpa, brothers, and sisters because they grieve too. They aren’t just shut out of this thing. They are a part of the grieving system.”
This is will be the seventh monument in the State of West Virginia.
Williams also challenged Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott last year to get the ball rolling on this project. Elliott said when someone like Woody issues you a challenge, you just have to see it through. He added that the city, county and local organizations really stepped up.
“I can’t thank Mr. Williams enough for what he did to inspire us, to challenge us and to get John Nanny here locally to take the lead on the fundraising,” Elliott continued. “It’s really great to see it come to fruition.”
Mayor Elliott also remarked that having a monument like this right here in the city of Wheeling is a meaning full addition.
“Communities want it for their own people in their own community,” Williams said. “Now the one we are going to do on the capital grounds that represent everybody in the state of West Virginia who’ve made that sacrifice, or who will make that sacrifice in the future. So, that’s why we think it ought to be almost twice the size as anybody else’s.”
The monument is projected to be complete by the end of summer of 2019.