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Gold Star Memorial unveiled on the state capitol grounds

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s living Medal of Honor recipient Woody Williams enjoyed a couple of milestones Friday. He turned 97 and was on hand to unveil a Gold Star Family Memorial Monument on the grounds of the West Virginia State Capitol in Charleston.

“This monument represents all of the Gold Star family members in West Virginia, 11,477 of our citizens have sacrificed their lives for all of us and for America,” said Williams as he stood alone during the virtual unveiling ceremony.

Woody Williams stands beside the monument on his birthday Friday.

The shiny black marker gleamed in the sunshine as Williams saluted.  It’s located just steps away from the state’s Veterans Memorial which bares the name of all from West Virginia who have died in service to the country.

Williams started the campaign to recognize the families of those killed in service to the nation with a goal of placing markers in all 50 states. As of Friday, 49 states have at least one of the monuments.  The first was dedicated in the Donnel C. Kinnard Memorial State Veterans Cemetery in Institute. The monument at the West Virginia State Capitol is the largest to date.

“It’s a very emotional moment for me, because of remembering those I knew as a youth who sacrificed their lives for our country,” Williams said as the drape was lifted on the memorial at the Capitol Complex.

The monument consists of four panels. The Homeland panel features the seal of the state of West Virginia and is etched with the New River Gorge Bridge in the backdrop. The Family panel is dedicated to military families who have stayed behind as a loved one served the nation. The Patriot panel is dedicated to all who have served and includes a colored etching of Marines raising the flag on Mount Suribachi. The scene was particularly special to Williams who actually witnessed the flag from a distance the moment it happened. The fourth panel is the Sacrifice panel, which was dedicated to the sacrifice made by those who paid the ultimate price in service to the country.

Each monument also includes a cut out silhouette of a saluting soldier, a symbol to honor those who are no longer here.

The Charleston monument was the 69th dedicated in the nation. There are 74 more under construction across the country.

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