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Editorial: Gold Star monument will serve as both a comfort for suffering families and a reminder for our communities

Sep 28 2021
Daily Herald Editorial Board | Daily Herald

After 18 months of COVID-19 restrictions, we all feel sharply how much we have sacrificed.

Until we meet neighbors who understand the nature of sacrifice in ways few of the rest of us can know.

Some of those neighbors met at Veterans Park in Naperville on Sunday. They attended a groundbreaking ceremony for the Naperville Gold Star Families Memorial Monument.

Everyone likes the recognition that usually comes with winning a gold star, but this particular reference is an honor that no one wants to receive. It goes to families who have lost a loved one in service to our nation. On Sunday, members of Gold Star families gathered to share experiences and sympathies, and to welcome efforts that will lead to construction of a monument recognizing the true suffering that families endure when someone they love will not come home from a tour of duty protecting our freedom.

Their meeting served many purposes. Its explicit goal was to lay both the sentimental and the practical groundwork for a tribute expected to be completed next year. But it also helped to keep alive the memories of loved ones who made the ultimate sacrifice. It allowed them to find some comfort sharing a deeply personal sorrow that only other families who have felt that sorrow can fully understand. It provided a sense of perspective for all of us who may be inclined to complain about pains we have endured or pleasures we have missed.

And perhaps most important of all, in the true spirit of the Gold Star movement, it assured individuals who feel the burdensome loneliness of losing a family member that there are folks nearby who want to help them carry that weight -- not just members of other Gold Star families but members throughout the suburbs, people who the families may never know but who will ever appreciate their sacrifice and join in mourning for the loss they suffered.

Denise Williams, of Plainfield, spoke at the ceremony. Her son Army Pfc. Andrew Meari was killed by an insurgent attack in Afghanistan in 2010. She described how such a memorial helps families like hers feel blessed to be reminded that they are not alone in their sorrow.

"(We're blessed because of) the community of veterans and the community of citizens that recognize and appreciate what (our loved ones) served for," she said, "what they gave up so that we all live where we do in this country with the type of freedom that is known nowhere else."

Over the past few weeks, political themes and images have dominated the nation's conversation about the war in Afghanistan. Sunday's ceremony in Naperville reminds us that, aside from policy debates and political differences, we all share certain duties toward each other that supersede politics.

And remind us of the valuable, and sometimes painful, blessings of community.