May 23 2021
Dora Vasquez-Hellner | The Westerly Sun
Gold Star families are those who have suffered the loss of a family member who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom while serving in the Armed Forces of the United States. The groundbreaking for the Rhode Island Gold Star Families Memorial monument was held on Oct. 20, 2019, at the Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Exeter. However, the pandemic caused delays and then cancellations of all the fundraising efforts to build the monument.
Several local veterans recently joined forces with the Gold Star families to help restart the project so they can have their monument built during this 20th anniversary year of 9/11. The projected dedication day will be in October 2021.
The monument project was founded by Medal of Honor recipient Hershel Woody Williams in 2010. Woody is the last surviving World War II Medal of Honor recipient, and he is passionate about acknowledging and thanking all the Gold Star families across our nation for their enduring sacrifice while ensuring that their fallen heroes shall never be forgotten. The Woody Williams Foundation is a charitable 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that encourages, with the support of local communities, the establishment of a monument in every state in the nation.
The monument’s primary goal is to demonstrate to Gold Star families that their community cares for them and appreciates their sacrifice too, while also honoring the ultimate sacrifice paid by their loved ones. The impact of the Woody Williams Foundation’s work helps to raise public awareness about Gold Star families and their continued sacrifice, as they are the living reminder that our freedom is not free. Their loved ones gave their tomorrows for your today.
The monument is two-sided and made of black granite. The front side bears the words: “Gold Star Families Memorial Monument, a tribute to Gold Star Families and Relatives who sacrificed a Loved One for our Freedom.” The other side tells a story through the four granite panels: Homeland, Family, Patriot, and Sacrifice. The scene on each panel reflects each community’s Gold Star families and their fallen heroes. At the center of this tribute is a silhouette of the loved one who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom.
The fundraising goal is $75,000 to build the monument, which will include the excavation and site work at the Veterans Memorial Cemetery. Due to continued COVID restrictions, the only option to raise the funds this year is to do a mailing campaign to Rhode Island businesses and to ask for support from our friends and family. Most of the funds need to be raised by July 15 to allow time to complete the project for the proposed dedication in October 2021.
There are three sponsorship levels: Gold Investor ($10,000), Silver Investor ($5,000), and Bronze Investor ($2,500). There will be a Dedication Day journal that will offer full-page to half-page sponsorship listings as well as VIP seating for the dedication ceremony at Rhode Island Veterans Memorial Cemetery for these sponsorship levels. Other supporters have options to purchase either a full-page ad at $500, half-page ad at $250, quarter-page ad at $100 or business card ad at $50.
General donations can be made to United Way of RI (memo: GSFMM), c/o United Way of RI, 50 Valley Street, Providence, RI 02909. Online donations can be made to: www.woodywilliams.org/monuments/ri-veterans.html.
Jenn Durkin, a relative of one of Rhode Island’s fallen, Pfc. Kyle Coutu, said, “This monument will be a visible reminder and marker, not only for my loved one, but for all the young men and women beside him who were taken from us too soon. It will also serve as a visible reminder to the Rhode Island community about the sacrifices they all made and to remember the very proud families who continue to struggle every day with their absence.”
Help the community of Rhode Island build this monument for their Gold Star families.
Contacts: Jamie DePaola, USMC (Ret), 860-985-2064, firstname.lastname@example.org; Dora Vasquez-Hellner, USA (Ret), 401-212-6377, email@example.com.