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Naperville unveils Gold Star monument on Memorial Day weekend

May 27 2023
Jewell Hillary and Eli Ong | WGN9

NAPERVILLE, Ill. — While nothing can take the place of a service member who died in the line of duty, those who have lost a loved one that served in the armed forces saw a new monument unveiled in their honor over Memorial Day weekend.

Gold Star families were honored at Naperville’s Veteran’s Park with a new memorial being unveiled Saturday, the culmination of which was years in the making and the brain child of a former Medal of Honor recipient.

“After Woody retired, he said there has got to be something we can do for Gold Star families” said Mike King, from the Woody Williams Foundation. “And that’s where him and another guy got together and designed the monument.”

Hershel “Woody” Williams was a World War Two veteran who served with the United States Marines in the Pacific Theater of the war. Williams was awarded the Medal of Honor on Oct. 5, 1945, for his ‘valiant devotion to duty‘ in the Battle of Iwo Jima.

After returning home from World War Two, Williams dedicated his life to honoring the lives of those lost fighting for their country up until his death in June of 2022. The monument unveiled Saturday at Naperville’s Veteran’s Park represents the 127th memorial created by the Wood Williams Foundation across the United States honoring Gold Star families and the service members killed in the line of duty.

“Naperville did a fantastic job and its something the community should be proud of for years to come,” said King.

Denise Williams, who’s only child — Pfc. Andrew Meari — was killed serving in Afghanistan at the age of 21 back in 2010, said the new monument ensures her son’s life and the many others lost serving our country won’t be forgotten.

“Tears of gratitude. All day, I’ve had a lump in my throat since I got here,” Williams said. “Just seeing the crowds, all of these people that are standing with us.”