Oct 23 2019
Don Wilkins |Messenger-Inquirer
When Medal of Honor recipient Hershel “Woody” Williams visited Owensboro in April, he encouraged local leaders to establish a Gold Star families monument within the community.
Williams was here speaking to the Kentucky Department of American Gold Star Mothers luncheon at the International Bluegrass Music Museum.
Williams, 96, who received a Medal of Honor from President Harry Truman for his actions as a Marine during World War II, made an impact on Mayor Tom Watson.
“I’ve been taking care of veterans with limb loss for 40-something years,” said Watson, who owns a prosthetics business. “…My father was a World War II veteran, and my mother was a war bride. So I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the military guys. That and meeting Woody, who was 95 years old then. He was so impressive.”
Since meeting Williams, Watson has been quietly raising money for the Gold Star Families Memorial monument that would be added on Veterans Boulevard next to the Shelton/POW Memorial.
His goal is $65,000.
He said the plan is to use private and public money to pay for the granite monument, which he would have commissioned through the Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation.
“All of these things tend to be more expensive than anticipated, so I’d like to have enough to make sure it works,” Watson said. “… I’d just like to put it beside our Shelton Memorial and add to our downtown.”
Watson has recruited local Gold Star mother Cathy Mullins to help raise support for the monument.
Mullins said Williams was in his 80s when he began his mission to establish Gold Star families monuments in every state. A Gold Star family is one in which a member was killed on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces.
To date, there is at least one monument in 42 states, with 56 that have been dedicated and 63 in progress.
“… Kentucky has more than one monument,” said Mullins, whose son Brandon was killed in 2011 while serving in Afghanistan. “They’re designed for each community. It does have a cutout of a soldier. And that’s because all of our fallen military heroes are designated on the monument.”
According to the Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation’s website, “the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument is to honor Gold Star Families, preserve the memory of the fallen and stand as a stark reminder that freedom is not free.”
Mullins is a board member with Williams’ foundation.
She said the foundation has the template, the granite supplier and the builders for the monument but it’s up to each community to provide the funding.
“It’s a streamlined process that helps communities,” Mullins said. “… Cities, communities and organizations are able to go through his foundation to get these monuments erected.”
If the money can be raised in time, the goal is to dedicate the monument sometime next year.
Mullins said Williams will likely be part of Owensboro's dedication when it takes place.
“Woody, even being at his age, tries to attend as many of those dedications as possible,” Mullins said.