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Committee endorses installation of Gold Star family memorial at Kansas Capitol

Oct 15 2021
Tim Carpenter | Kansas Reflector

TOPEKA — The Kansas Capitol Preservation Committee endorsed a proposal to add a memorial on the statehouse grounds honoring Gold Star families and comply with a request from the only living Medal of Honor recipient of World War II.

The committee voted unanimously to recommend the Legislature approve installation of the monument proposed by Hershel “Woody” Williams, a retired U.S. Marine Corps warrant officer and Medal of Honor recipient. He made the recommendation to Gov. Laura Kelly when the two met in September 2020 during the dedication of the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument at Olathe Veteran’s Memorial Park.

A Gold Star family includes the immediate family of a service member who died while serving in a time of conflict.

Kelly worked with the Governor’s Military Council to advance planning for a memorial on the Veterans’ Walk. Perry Wiggins, executive director of the council, developed a fundraising committee to gather donations.

The new monument on the Capitol grounds in Topeka would consist of a plaque mounted on a granite stone and placed on the Veterans’ Walk, Wiggins said.

“Kansas is one of the only states that does not have a Gold Star family memorial on statehouse grounds, and we would like to see that change,” Wiggins said. “We as a nation and a state owe these families a special debt for the service and sacrifice they have shown, and continue to show.”

Kelly said the families of men and women killed in military service bravely endured their losses. She said Williams was right to encourage Kansas officials to act.

“I took Mr. Williams’ challenge seriously – and I agree that installing a permanent memorial to Gold Star families on the statehouse grounds is a fitting tribute to their courage and resilience,” the governor said.

Williams, 98, received the Medal of Honor for service at Iwo Jima. He was presented the military’s highest honor in 1945 by President Harry Truman.