DUNBAR, W.Va. — The first Gold Star Families Memorial Monument in the United States now stands in Kanawha County. It was officially dedicated at the Donel C. Kinnard Memorial State Veterans Cemetery in Dunbar on Wednesday.
“This is a symbol and tribute to those families who lost a loved one because they gave more for our freedoms than I did,” said Hershel “Woody” Williams, West Virginia’s last living Medal of Honor recipient.
“I got to come home and have a life, raise a family. Their loved ones never had that opportunity.”
The monument is four slabs of black granite. Each individual slab has an etching on the back for “homeland,” “family,” “patriot” and “sacrifice.” “Sacrifice” depicts an empty chair at a family gathering.
The Gold Star Families Memorial Monument is a project from the Hershel “Woody” Williams Medal of Honor Foundation and it could serve as the launching point for a nationwide effort to honor families, throughout history, that have lost loved ones in combat.
A second Gold Star Families Memorial Monument is already being planned in Marietta, Ga. Williams has also made a presentation about a possible monument project at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Va.
“This needs to be done in community after community because there’s Gold Star families in every community we have and it is something that can be placed anywhere,” said Williams who turned 90 this week.
Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and state Veterans Assistance Secretary Rick Thompson were among those who attended Wednesday’s dedication ceremony.