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State's first Woody Williams Gold Star Families Memorial Monument will be unveiled, dedicated

Mar 10 2022
Erica Drzewiecki | The Bristol Press

BERLIN – Starting this spring Connecticut families who sacrificed a loved one for our country’s freedom will have a designated place to honor their memory.

The state’s first-ever Woody Williams Gold Star Families Memorial Monument will be unveiled and dedicated at a formal ceremony set for April 23 at 1 p.m., in Veterans Memorial Park, 51 Lower Lane. This is a collaborative effort by CT’s Gold Star Families Memorial Monument Committee, the Woody Williams Foundation and the Town of Berlin.

“It’s being built right now in Vermont,” said Gary Roy, who along with his wife Marianne Mihalyo, started the monument project after meeting Woody Williams at a reunion of Iwo Jima survivors.

“Spending time with Woody, listening to him talk, you can just feel the passion,” Roy said.

The term ‘Gold Star Mothers’ originated after World War II, when mothers who lost a child in the war started pinning a gold star in the windows of their home. ‘Gold Star Families’ encompasses all of whom have sacrificed loved ones serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

“This is for the whole family,” Roy pointed out. “It gives them the opportunity to come here and be that much closer to the one they lost.”

CT Gold Star Mothers President Helen Keiser Pedersen is thrilled this project is finally coming to fruition. Her son, Capt. Andrew Pedersen Keel, was killed in Afghanistan in 2013. The Commander of a Green Beret team, he was just about to celebrate his 29th birthday.

“I’m very excited and so proud of all the donors,” said Pedersen, also a member of the Gold Star CT Committee. “We have met our goal of $70,000 by just asking. People have been very generous.”

Her son graduated from West Point Military Academy, which has been promoting the Gold Star monument project.

“They held a tailgate fundraiser during a UConn game in September and were able to donate almost $3,000,” Pedersen said.

Andrew had a career with the military before he was killed in action, so she has visited Arlington National Cemetery and other national sites to honor him over the years.

“For me this is especially poignant because all these soldiers who volunteered but it wasn’t their profession, their families will have a local place where their child is memorialized,” Pedersen explained. “This is what drives me, to give the families a place to feel they’ve been honored and remembered and that their sacrifice means something to Connecticut.”

The black granite monument will memorialize fallen heroes with the words Homeland, Family, Patriot, and Sacrifice. At the center of this tribute will be a distinct cut-out to represent the soldier who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

A walkway to the site is expected to be constructed soon, along with a 25 ft. round concrete patio.

The upcoming dedication ceremony and unveiling is open to the public.