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Gold Star families honor lost loved ones at unveiling of monument in St. George

Mar 26 2022
Stephanie DeGraw | St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The unveiling of a Gold Star Families Memorial Monument in the heart of St. George on Saturday brought together over 200 Gold Star Families. The public event featured a men’s chorus and various speakers.

This Gold Star Families Memorial Monument is the second one in the state of Utah and can be found in Historic Town Square. A Gold Star Family is the immediate family member(s) of a fallen service member who died while serving in a time of conflict or took their own life due to the consequences of post-traumatic stress disorder. It means having faced insurmountable loss.

St. George Mayor Michele Randall said this was the “toughest speaking gig” she has had so far and then recalled when Sgt. Cooper Mount arrived at the St. George Regional Airport in a casket the American flag draped over its top on Aug. 6, 2020.

“There was a procession from the airport that took the southern corridor (state Route 7) to I-15 and then came up Main Street to the Boulevard and ended up at Metcalf Mortuary,” she said. “Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of our community members lined the streets that day. I watched from tiny children to our seniors, as they stood and paid respect as the hearse passed by with their hand over their heart. And most of them – waving the American flag.”

Randall thanked all who helped raise $100,000 of private funds toward the project. She said many private citizens, local elected officials came together to make the memorial possible. She also recognized the nonprofit organizations, the Woody Williams Foundation and the Major Brent Taylor Foundation for their assistance.

Randall also commended Jenny Taylor of North Ogden. Taylor is a Gold Star wife who started the Major Brent Taylor Foundation after she lost her husband Nov. 3, 2018, in Kabul, Afghanistan. Her husband was serving as the mayor of North Ogden at the time. Taylor is instrumental in helping other Gold Star families, and the Taylor Foundation raised money to erect a Gold Star Families Memorial Monument in North Ogden in 2020.

“Thank you, Jenny, you’re an inspiration to us all, and you put me on the right track,” Randall said. “This monument is a sign of commitment, love and gratitude from our community to our Gold Star Families. It is a promise that we will always remember the price their loved ones paid and never ignore the heartbreak Gold Star Families endure.”

Taylor put the City Council in touch with the Woody Williams Foundation whose purpose is to honor Gold Star Families and was established by Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from World War II.

On Feb. 23, 1945, the fifth day of battle on Iwo Jima and the day of the famous flag-raising, Williams stalked hostile Japanese gun emplacements. He took them out with his flame thrower, saving countless American lives. His actions over the course of four hours under heavy enemy fire, earned him the Medal of Honor.

According to the foundation’s website, it is now a national effort to provide a place of permanence for Gold Star Families and members of the public to gather in recognition of the sacrifices that have been in the name of freedom — and to ensure that the sacrifice is never forgotten. This program is active in all 50 states and one U.S. territory with 90 monuments installed and an additional 85 monuments in progress, as of mid-March 2022.

“We hope this will inspire people to talk about the price of freedom, and the responsibility we all have as beneficiaries of those freedoms,” Randall said. “It reminds us that some gave all and that it is our solemn duty to honor their sacrifices by lifting our community every chance we get.”

Another speaker was Gold Star father, Dennis Moxon, who lost his son to suicide due to post-traumatic stress disorder after his service. Moxon said it is often hard to see the warning signs of depression and PTSD.

Moxon shared his personal story. He said when he lost his son, the pain was so great that he thought the only way to stop his pain was to also end his life. So he made a plan, chose the weapon and just needed to find a place. He said he was also trying to figure out how to minimize what damage would be done to his family.

“But it was about that same time where the signs of my grieving became so intolerable, that my oldest son got in my face and told me I needed to find a better way to grieve. He was blunt,” he said. “And I didn’t take it very well. But he was right. And it saved my life.”

Moxon put on a brave front to his community but said he is so grateful for his oldest son helping him see he needed help to cope with his grief.

“My other son is in the ground now,” he said. “I grieve every day of my life, until the day I die, and I can put my arms around him. And I can tell him that I love him that I’m proud of him. I’m proud to be his dad. And then beg his forgiveness for any shortcomings I may have had as his father, for my inability to see signs for my inability to prevent his death.”

He encouraged families to reach out for help when they need it or see someone else who does.

This monument is a sign of commitment, love and gratitude from the community

Randall asked attendees to remember those families who for the rest of their time on earth must move forward without their loved ones. She said this monument is a sign of commitment, love and gratitude from the community to Gold Star families.

“We hope this will inspire people to talk about the price of freedom and the responsibility we all have as beneficiaries of those freedoms,” Randell said.

After the program each Gold Star Family present was able to come to the monument, state the name of their fallen loved one and place a yellow flower at the base of the monument in his/her honor.

A Gold Star Family can display a Gold Star Service Flag for service members who were killed or died, while serving in the Armed Forces, from causes other than dishonorable. The number of gold stars on the flag corresponds to the number of individuals who were killed or died. A gold star is placed over the blue star on a Blue Star Service Flag so that the blue forms a border and creates a Gold Star Service Flag.

The U.S. Department of Defense also issues Gold Star lapel pins to immediate family members of a fallen service member of the military. These pins are worn by spouses, parents and children of service members killed in the line of duty and contain a gold star on a purple circular background.