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After campaign, work begins on Gold Star Family Monument in Beaufort

Aug 21 2020
Brad Rich | Carteret County News-Times

BEAUFORT — The nonprofit Carteret County Gold Star Family Monument group broke ground Aug. 12 for a new monument at Courthouse Square and plans to unveil and dedicate it Sunday, Sept. 20.

The event is scheduled for 2 p.m.

The monument will honor the sacrifices members of the county military community have made, as well as the families and friends they left behind.

Maria Myers, an 81-year-old Beaufort resident who has led the effort for the monument, lost her son, Donald, an Army Apache helicopter pilot, in a training exercise in 1997.

“That’s what got me involved with the Gold Star mothers in Wilmington,” she said Thursday. Since then, she said she’s put in thousands of hours as a volunteer supporting troops as they deploy.

Gold Star mothers strive to keep the memory of their children alive by working to help veterans, those who currently serve and their families and friends.

The memorial in Carteret County has been Ms. Myers’ goal since before Hurricane Florence in 2018. It started, she said, when she saw Wilmington officials and a Gold Star group there dedicate a portion of Highway 24 as a Gold Star Memorial Highway.

Ms. Meyers started fundraising on a small scale, “a few dollars here, a few dollars there,” selling barbecue her husband cooked, but soon realized she needed help to reach the minimum goal of $60,000.

She started a nonprofit organization to handle the money and enlisted Fred Harvey, also a Beaufort resident, who had more computer expertise. They sent out letters to businesses and asked for a donation from Carteret County.

Then Florence hit and donation dried up. The county government, she said, rightfully “put people first,” and businesses in the area were short on cash as they tended to their own repairs and other post-hurricane needs.

Slowly, money started coming in again, eventually topping $75,000, and the memorial and associated costs are funded completely.

She also credited the fundraising acumen and connections of Morehead City resident Trish Slape, another Gold Star mother.

“I’m so happy,” Ms. Myers said Thursday. “It took a long time to raise the money, but we kept trying and now we’re ready.”

Ms. Slape’s son, James, died in October 2018 in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan while serving with the N.C. Army National Guard.

“If it hadn’t been for them (Ms. Slape and Mr. Harvey) I think it would have taken another two years,” Ms. Myers said. She announced the fundraising success to Carteret County commissioners in a board meeting in January.

Ms. Myers declined to give a photo or drawing of the memorial, which will be located in the yard of the courthouse, before the unveiling and dedication. Typically, the Gold Star monuments are two-sided and made of black granite. One side bears the words, “Gold Star Families Memorial Monument, a tribute to Gold Star Families and Relatives who have sacrificed a Loved One for our Freedom.” The other side tells a story through four granite panels, of homeland, family, patriotism and sacrifice. The scenes on each panel reflect each community’s Gold Star families and their fallen family members.

At the center of this tribute is a cut-out that represents the loved one who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom.

Ms. Myers said the monument in honor of her son and Ms. Slape’s will also raise awareness.

“We're trying to make the people of Carteret County and everywhere else more aware of the Gold Star families and what their sacrifice is,” she said.

The effort to make the monument a reality has been under the auspices of the nonprofit Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation, online at