Nov 18 2019
Lou Whitmire |Mansfield News Journal
MANSFIELD - A Mansfield Gold Star Families Memorial Monument was unveiled on the front lawn of the Richland County Courthouse Monday in a ceremony honoring families who lost a loved one during military service.
A large crowd gathered for the dedication ceremony that included numerous speakers, performances by both Lexington and St. Peter's high school choirs, a bagpipe player, a 21-gun salute by local military veterans, a wreath laying for Gold Star families, and taps.
Several family members who lost a loved one while serving in the U.S. military were in attendance.
The purpose of the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument is to preserve the memory of the fallen and to stand as a stark reminder that freedom is not free.
One of two keynote speakers was retired U.S. Marine Corps CWO 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams, a Medal of Honor Recipient, who heads up the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument movement and the Hershel “Woody” Williams Medal of Honor Foundation.
“We pray that this memorial to those Gold Star families will be some form of comfort and peace and will continue to honor those who are lost so they will not ever be forgotten.”
"Your presence here this morning of all of you is certainly indicative of the love that this community has for our loved ones who gave that ultimate sacrifice to keep us a free people," Williams said.
"And certainly this is not about me, it's about them," Williams said. "They are the full reason why we're here and what we're doing."
Williams said the Mansfield monument is the eighth in Ohio and the 58th Gold Star Families monument to be dedicated across the country.
The black granite monument features two sides. One side bears the words: "Gold Star Families Memorial Monument, a tribute to Gold Star Families and Relatives who have sacrificed a Loved One for our Freedom." The other side tells a story through the four granite panels: Homeland, Family, Patriot, and Sacrifice. The scenes on each panel are a reflection of our community’s Gold Star Families and their fallen Heroes.
At the center of this tribute is the most distinct feature of the monument, a cutout representing the loved one who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom.
Williams explained that Gold Star Families flags initially started in California during World War I. Mothers who had sons fighting in Europe placed the Blue Star flags in the windows of their homes to indicate they had someone serving in the armed forces. A Gold Star flag was developed and replaced the Blue Star flag to indicate a loved one was not coming home.
"We did that during World War I then we quit. We picked it up again during World War II and homes again began hanging the flags in the windows," Williams said.
There are a few Gold Star flags in the windows of homes today but the symbol is not as widely used as it should be, Williams said.
"This community is making history here this morning," Williams said. "This memorial will be here from now on. It's not going to go away. It represents not only those of the past, and the present and the future.... We pray that this memorial to those Gold Star families will be some form of comfort and peace and will continue to honor those who are lost so they will not ever be forgotten."
Williams said with this monument, relatives of loves ones in this community who sacrificed their lives will have received the honor they have long deserved and has never been done.
"It's not going to ease the hurt or take away the pain," he said. "It is not going to replace that loved one that never got home. But it will serve as a reminder that this community, those living in this area, will share their love and respect," Williams said.
Also a keynote speaker, Maj. General Deborah Ashenhurst, director of the Ohio Department of Veterans Services, said lauded those who came Monday to come and pause and think about the price of freedom and the toll of war.
"Here Ohioans can come together to reflect... to shed tears," she said.
Numerous people, organizations and community groups raised money to have the monument placed at the courthouse. A Gold Star Families Committee worked tirelessly to make the monument become a reality.
"It's always a thrill to be around Gold Star families, because they have not been recognized, they have never had any honor or tribute. So when we can do something like this for the Gold Star families in this community, it's got to be a thrill," Williams said