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Gold Star monument supporters look to Rally visitors for donations

Aug 13 2021
Deb Holland | Black Hills Pioneer

STURGIS — Supporters of the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument in Sturgis are educating people while also raising a little money for the monument during this year’s Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

“Not everybody knows what a Gold Star Family is. It (the Rally) has been an opportunity to share that information. Everyone who hears about it says they are appreciative of our efforts,” said Aaron Jordan, Sturgis City Council member and chairman of the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument Committee.

A Gold Star Family is one that has lost an immediate family member in the line of duty of military service. The designation is meant to honor the service member’s ultimate sacrifice while acknowledging their family’s loss, grief and continued healing.

The memorial monument committee has a tent set up at Harley-Davidson Rally Point with a life-size replica of memorial monument.

The fundraising goal to bring the memorial monument to Sturgis is between $50,000 and $75,000, Jordan said. Just the monument will cost about $55,000. That doesn’t include the cost of landscape and installation of the black granite monument at Rally Point.

The Greater Sturgis Foundation has agreed to match donations to the memorial monument up to $7,500. The memorial monument committee also has received donations from the VFW and Kiwanis Club.

“A lot of organizations within our community have given funds to help this project get on its feet,” Jordan said.

Jordan admits the fundraising at the Rally has been “good,” but not great.

“I was more optimistic from a fundraiser perspective, but we are raising funds. The key is that we have been educating a lot of folks,” he said.

The memorial monument is about 14 feet by seven feet and encompasses four panels, each weighing up to 3,000 pounds.

The monument is two-sided. One 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. On the other side of the monument, there are scenes etched on each of the four panels: Homeland, Family, Patriot and Sacrifice.

“At the center of this tribute is a silhouette of a saluting service member which represents the legacy of the loved ones who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom,” said Alex Nauert, Director of Programs for the Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation.

The Sturgis Area Arts Council has helped to design artwork for both the Homeland and Sacrifice panels on the rear of the memorial monument.

“The Arts Council took the lead at finding images that would represent Sturgis and the Northern Hills,” Jordan said.

On the Homeland panel, the Sturgis monument would have an etched photo of Mount Rushmore, an aerial photo of both the Belle Fourche River and of the town of Sturgis with Bear Butte in the background.

On the Sacrifice panel there will be an aerial photo of the Black Hills National Cemetery and also an aerial photo of the Fort Meade VA Medical Center looking toward Bear Butte, Jordan said.

Initially the Williams’ foundation’s goal was to establish a Gold Star Families Memorial Monument in founder Woody Williams’ home state of West Virginia. Once that monument was complete, a new mission became clear to Williams and those at the Hershel “Woody” Williams Medal of Honor Foundation to establish these monuments in as many communities as possible in all 50 states and US territories.

This would be the first Gold Star Families Memorial Monument in South Dakota, Nauert said. They currently have 87 monuments including the one in progress in Sturgis.

Organizers hope to have the Sturgis memorial monument in place for next year’s 82nd Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.