Jul 03 2023
Tiffany Blanchette | Daily Journal
A Watseka group plans to bring a veteran monument to town in honor of the families of veterans that paid the ultimate price.
Through the Woody Williams Foundation’s Gold Star Families Memorial Monument program, the committee has begun fundraising the suggested $100,000 for the construction, maintenance, landscaping, lighting and other additions at the monument’s planned Watseka Legion Park site.
The effort intends to honor Gold Star Families, which are the immediate family members of a fallen service member who died while serving in a time of conflict.
The local committee includes Gold Star mothers Tammy Allen, of Watseka, and Kris Hemp, of Crescent City, along with Eric West and Janet Doyle, both of Watseka. Tammy’s husband, Scott Allen, is credited with starting the monument approval process and serves as a Woody Williams Foundation honorary board member along with Alucia Marshall, of Watseka.
Scott Allen said he hopes the monument helps people understand what a Gold Star Family is, and to honor their sacrifice.
“Once people know, it reminds them that freedom isn’t free,” he said. “There are people that have paid the price, and it’s an expensive price.”
The Watseka memorial monument site is one of only a few efforts currently approved for fundraising in Illinois, with more being established in states across the country each year.
The group worked with the Watseka American Legion Post 23 to plan the project, which includes surrounding the monument, a two-sided tribute made of black granite, with landscaping, lighting and an American flag, among other additions.
The monuments provide a place of permanence for Gold Star Families to gather and utilize as they see fit and aim to demonstrate that their community cares for them and appreciates their sacrifice, while also honoring the ultimate sacrifice of their loved ones, the foundation website states.
Hemp, a Gold Star mother, said she hopes the memorial serves as a place for Gold Star Family members and the community to visit and remember lost loved ones.
“Being a Gold Star Family member is not a good thing,” Hemp said. “But it’s important for people to remember the fallen soldiers who served our country for our freedom.”Hemp’s son, Grant Yohnka, was serving in the Army before he passed after a brief battle with brain cancer in July 2002; Tammy Allen’s son, Mitch C. Goad, was on active duty with the U.S. Navy when he passed in 2010.
The Gold Star Families Memorial was created by Medal of Honor recipient and U.S. Marine Corps veteran Hershel “Woody” Williams to remember those families who have made the ultimate sacrifice, according to the foundation’s website, woodywilliams.org.
Once fundraising is complete, there will be a groundbreaking ceremony. After the memorial is completed, another ceremony will be held.
To donate to the Watseka monument effort, visit woodywilliams.org/monuments/watseka-il.html.
The committee will also be walking in the Watseka Fourth of July parade at 10 a.m. Tuesday to take donations and raise awareness.
Fundraising will also take place at the Watseka Family Festival on Aug. 24-26 at Legion Park, and a Jeep and Bike Run to raise money is planned for Sept. 9 throughout Iroquois County with more details to come.
For questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 815-671-5494.