Jun 11 2021
Mitch Hotts | Macomb Daily
The last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima is scheduled to speak Saturday at a dedication ceremony honoring Michigan's Gold Star Families on the grounds of the Clinton Township Civic Center.
Clinton Township is the second community in Michigan to place monuments honoring Gold Star Families, the first being in Bay City. A Gold Star family is the immediate family members of a fallen service member who died while serving in a time of conflict.
Nick and Karen Straffon of St. Clair County's Clay Township were the driving forces behind bringing the monuments to Clinton Township. Nick was a colonel in the U.S. Army from 1968 to 1998.
"They're military people and Karen's father is buried at Resurrection Cemetery," said Clinton Township Supervisor Bob Cannon. "They brought the Wreaths of America event to the cemetery, which honors veteran cemeteries. The liked the way we treated veterans."
Karen Straffon said she liked the atmosphere of the Civic Center, with its Historic Village, fishing pond and other amenities. The center is on Romeo Plank Road, near Resurrection Cemetery, which will be part of Saturday's event.
"To me, this is the perfect place," she said. "It's beautiful. People can peacefully walk by here. And it's close to Resurrection Cemetery, where a lot of fallen service people are buried."
The Straffons are also honorary board members of the Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation.
Williams, 97, is a retired U.S. Marine Corps warrant officer who received the Medal of Honor, the United States military's highest decoration for valor, for heroism beyond the call of duty in Japan during World War II.
He began a foundation in 2010 to honor Gold Star Families. According to news reports, the foundation plans to erect monuments in all 50 states. The foundation also conducts outreach across the country and provides scholarships to Gold Star Families' children.
The Straffons and a team of volunteers were behind a $75,000 drive to pay for the Clinton Township granite monument and four benches around it. The township donated the land and will maintain it.
The memorial monuments are a two-sided tribute carved in black granite. One side recognizes Gold Star Families and relatives who lost a loved one. On the other side, four granite panels tell a story under the headings of homeland, family, patriot, and sacrifice. At the monument’s center is a silhouette representing the fallen soldier who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom.
"There's easily 1,000 Gold Star families in Michigan," Nick Straffon said. "We've included a few images on here which are people from southeast Michigan who died in combat. They include all wars, all ethnicities and all walks of life."
Saturday's dedication event starts at 1 p.m. at the Civic Center, located at 40700 Romeo Plank Road at Clinton River Road.