Sep 22 2020
Paul Gattis | AL.com
The parade of motorcycles rumbled down U.S. 72 through Jackson and into Madison County, then onto I-565 and Washington Street in downtown Huntsville.
The two dozen or so motorcycles, part of the Patriot Guard Riders, escorted a first of its kind in Alabama, a monument honoring Gold Star families that will be formally unveiled next month. There are 65 Gold Star monuments nationwide.
On Tuesday, though, the monument arrived at its new home at the Huntsville Madison County Veterans Memorial on Monroe Street, packed on pallets and secured in bubble wrap. The monument itself could not be seen.
Still, a handful of people milled quietly about on a cool, early fall morning. It was a somber occasion as the monument spotlights families who have lost a loved one in the Armed Services.
“This is a capstone of the Veterans Memorial park,” said Julie Kink, a member of the local Gold Star Families Memorial Monument Committee. Julie’s brother, David, was a helicopter pilot who died in Vietnam in 1969. “This will be the final monument and it’s very fitting that it’s a monument for Gold Star families as well as their loved ones.”
The escort of the flat-bed trailer hauling the monument began at the Tennessee state line near Bridgeport. The monument was built by Bailey Granite & Monuments in Flatwoods, Kentucky, on the West Virginia line near Huntington.
Kink said personnel from the company will be on site at the park Wednesday to put the monument together and mount it at its spot near the rear, a process expected to take several hours.
Once erected, park visitors can get a glimpse of the monument ahead of the Oct. 17 unveiling – though one side of the monument will remain concealed until the ceremony, Kink said.
“The backside is particular to this community,” she said, referring to the part that won’t be unveiled until the ceremony. “It will have etchings that were chosen specifically by the committee to reflect the local area.”
Kink said Gold Star families from Florida, Georgia and elsewhere across the country as well as throughout Alabama are expected to attend the unveiling. The ceremony is open to the public.
Donations can be made to support the Huntsville monument either online at hmcvm.org or hwwmohf.org or by mail. The address for Huntsville-Madison County Veterans Memorial Foundation is PO Box 2911 in Huntsville, 35804.
Mike and Christine Wicks of defense contractor I3 are the project sponsors.
The Hershel “Woody” Williams Medal of Honor Foundation is assisting local committees across the country in installing Gold Star Families Memorial Monuments nationwide.