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A granite-solid Memorial Day vow: never forget

May 27 2021
Stephen Harris | Elkin Tribune

This Memorial Day, more so than most others, will be a time to head back eagerly to the beach or mountains, the creek or cabin, the pool or pond, the picnic table or bright lights of the big city. It’ll be a time to break out and boogie.

The pandemic has kept us cooped up, buckled down, uneasy about going anywhere or doing anything. With the easing of the virus’ wrath as well as the easing of government restrictions on business, entertainment and socializing, it’s time to move.

You can’t blame us. But Memorial Day is not designed for fun and frolic. Instead, it represents a serious, somber time to remember and honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom and greatness that is in America.

So while you’re on the go this upcoming holiday, take a moment, stop by Elkin Park and see and reflect on something new and really special here in the hometown.

An impressive, polished black granite Gold Star Memorial Monument, reminiscent of the acclaimed Vietnam War Memorial on the mall in Washington, D.C., but without names, will be dedicated on Sunday at 2 p.m.

You know about tributes to Americans who’ve died in war. But you don’t hear so much about the families who were left to grieve in the aftermath, the Gold Star families.

Gold Star monuments are being erected around the country as “a tribute to Gold Star Families and Relatives who sacrificed a Loved One for our Freedom,” the monuments say. Gold Star flags to hang in windows started during World War I.

Beginning in West Virginia, placement of the monuments show the “community cares for them (Gold Star families) and appreciates their sacrifice while also honoring the ultimate sacrifice paid by their Loved Ones,” according to the Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation website, on the internet.

A Marine during World War II, Williams delivered fateful telegrams to families who lost loved ones in that war. A Veterans Service representative for 33 years afterward, he created the foundation to place the monuments, with 76 placed to date and 74 more planned, according to the website.

Now 97, Williams – a D-Day survivor, POW and Medal of Honor, Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient – is expected at the Elkin dedication.

Veterans of Foreign Wars post 7794 in Elkin raised money for a monument to honor Gold Star families in northwest North Carolina and southwest Virginia. Some 20 to 40 Gold Star families are expected for the Elkin dedication along with some 125 Rolling Thunder Riders, a motorcycle club that promotes veterans causes. The dedication will mark the end of a 2½-year effort.

They’ve built a new, bigger and and better memorial site at the park that includes new, taller flag poles, lighting and granite benches that allow you to sit and reflect.

Other Gold Star monument sites in North Carolina are in Wilmington and Beaufort, while another is planned in Spring Lake, next to Fort Bragg and Fayetteville.

On the back of the monuments, 13-feet long and seven feet tall, are panels representing homeland, family, patriot and sacrifice. A photo of Mount Rushmore represents homeland, and the famous raising of the flag at Iwo Jima during World War II marks patriot. A silhouette of a family is included, as are photos of a cemetery and a flag-draped coffin, for sacrifice. Two panels are carved to show an outline of a saluting service member. Touching.

“For us as Gold Star families, I think that the most important thing is that it helps people to learn about the fallen, to think about the fallen,” Gold Star father Carlos del Castillo told the Tampa Bay Times newspaper after a dedication there in November. “We don’t want our loved ones to be forgotten.”

Here in the hometown, we won’t.