Mar 07 2021
Joe Gamm | News Tribune
Volunteers and generous benefactors have helped rake in about enough money to pay for the proposed Mid-Missouri Gold Star Families Monument, to be placed on the Missouri Capitol grounds.
However, the effort hasn’t reached its goal — $125,000 — which would allow organizers to set aside enough money to maintain the site in perpetuity.
The 7-foot-tall, 12-foot-long monument is to be placed at the entrance for the new Bicentennial Bridge, adjacent to the Missouri Veterans Memorial on the north side of the Capitol.
A Gold Star Family has a family member who served in the military and died in the line of duty. The honor dates back to World War I, when families of service members displayed flags featuring a blue star for every member of the immediate family who was serving in the war. If one of the family members died, the star’s color would be changed to gold.
Among the organizers of the effort to create a monument in Jefferson City is Eric Gottfried, whose father, U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Richard Steven Gottfried, died in Iraq in 2004.
The veteran soldier had served 181/2 years and would have been eligible for full retirement at 20 years, Eric Gottfried said.
Gottfried said the anniversary of his father’s death is Tuesday, and the memories come unbidden about this time of year.
As do the comparisons — his father died at 42.
“I am 41. … I’m (about) the same age of my dad when he passed,” Gottfried said.
Seventeen years, and it still seems like yesterday, he said.
“I don’t think a lot of people realize what a Gold Star Family is,” Gottfried said. “A lot of people don’t realize the sacrifices that other families continue to endure — the loss.”
So to be just a little part of the effort to recognize families like his own is humbling, he said.
“I’m honored to be a part of something that will be there long after I’m gone,” he said.
One goal of the committee in creating the monument was to get youth involved early, said state Rep. Dave Griffith, the committee chair.
“We really wanted to have youth involved,” Griffith said, “so, when they come to the monument, when they bring their kids and grandkids here, they can say that they had a part in it.”
Local students have raised money for the monument. Blair Oaks High School raised about $2,600; Helias Catholic High School raised about $800; and Nichols Career Center raised about $2,000, he said.
Additionally, service clubs in town have raised money to help with development and construction of the monument.
“It’s been a collaborative effort throughout the entire community to bring it here,” Griffith said. “This is also being built for the public to educate them on the sacrifices made.”
When the push for a Gold Star Families Monument began in Jefferson City, only about 60 were already standing or underway, he said. Now there are more than 80.
Counting Missouri, only five states have the Gold Star Families Memorials on their capitol grounds.
Griffith’s father died while serving, he said.
“It’s special for me to have that monument here,” he said.
One of the things organizers are concentrating on is finding more Gold Star Families in the community and inviting them to be involved.
If you know someone who may be a Gold Star Family, ask them to notify Rosie Verslues at Legends Bank, 573-636-4193.
Gold Star Families share things in common that nobody else can, Griffith said. They create a network and build on it.
Legends Bank has an account set up for the monument. To donate, make a check out to “Gold Star Families Memorial Monument” and drop it off at the bank.
The monument is nearing completion. Organizers have already set aside a date and time for its dedication — 11 a.m. Aug. 7.