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Gold Star Families Monument dedicated during Florence Veterans Day Ceremony

Nov 11 2019
Lauren Owens |SC NOW

FLORENCE, S.C. — A Gold Star Families Monument was dedicated Monday during the 11th annual Florence Veterans Day Ceremony at Florence Veterans Park.

The monument is a tribute to those who have lost a family member while that family member was serving their country in the U.S. Armed Forces.

During the ceremony, Elaine Johnson, the vice president of the American Gold Star South Carolina Chapter, recognized Gold Star Mothers who were in attendance.

“This is our day for us to let the city of Florence to know that we are here, and we won’t let our soldiers be forgotten,” Johnson said.

Johnson shared her personal experience of losing her son and seeking peace after his death. Johnson said she found peace when realizing her son gave his life for the country.

“We are the Gold Star families who paid the ultimate sacrifice, but we pay it for our country,” Johnson said. “Yes, our hearts are broken. Yes, we shed many tears, but it’s for the country. Let’s all of us stand together. Let’s all of us hold hands. Let’s all of us embrace each other. It’s not time for hatred. It’s time for peace.”

David Friedrich, whose son, Travis, died in Bagdad, Iraq, spread some of his son’s ashes on the Gold Star Families Monument. Friedrich is a North Carolina resident.

Friedrich said he always felt that he needed to try to do something to come to grips with his loss, and he was struggling to come up with something.

“I was looking for some real challenges,” Friedrich said. “I wanted to feel cold, and I wanted to feel wet. I wanted to feel lonely, and I wanted to feel sad. I wanted to feel scared. I wanted to feel out of my element and uncomfortable. I wanted to suffer.”

Friedrich’s desire for a challenge led him to riding his motorcycle across the United States to visit monuments on the Trail of Honor, which included several Gold Star Families Monuments. Friedrich said he would spread some of his son’s ashes when he felt close to him.

His visit to the Florence Gold Star Families Monument marks his 33rd Gold Star Families Monument that he has spread some of his son’s ashes.

Peggy Dearing Moore, a member of the Gold Star Families Monument Committee, said the Monday ceremony was the second time she had seen the monument, and both times she cried.

“It’s so emotional, because it has been a long time coming,” Moore said. “We are still suffering. We are still mourning, but now we have a little bit of peace of mind knowing that people appreciate what we go through.”

Moore’s first husband was killed in the Vietnam War in May 1971.

The Gold Star Families Monument in Florence is one of 56 monuments across the nation that has been dedicated, according to the Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation website.

Alex Nauert, a representative of the Hershel “Woody” Williams Medal of Honor Foundation, honored retired U.S. Army Col. Barry Wingard and Eddie Collins as honorary board members of the foundation.

“By unveiling this monument for those family members, that committee that dedicated their time and their efforts in getting the community involved does not go unnoticed,” Nauert said.

The idea for the local monument began when Eddie Collins saw a Gold Star Families Monument dedication last year in Charleston and wanted to bring the monument to Florence.

After receiving support from the Veterans Park Committee, Collins formed a committee made up of Gold Star family members who worked to plan and gain donors.

Wingard said the Veterans Park Committee had 95 donors to the monuments from individuals, businesses, civic clubs and corporations.