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New monument, park to celebrate Gold Star families

May 19 2022
Stephen Dow | The Sheridan Press

SHERIDAN — An open grassy area between Kendrick Park and Whitney Commons will soon be home to a memorial dedicated to the families of veterans killed in the line of duty.

Brad Walden, with the nonprofit WYO W.E.S.T. Warrior Foundation, said the monument is a tribute to Gold Star families, or immediate families of those who died while serving in a time of conflict. Beginning in World War I, families displayed small banners with a blue star for every immediate family member serving in the armed forces. If a family member died in service, the family replaced the blue star with a gold star, Walden said.

“Gold Star families are some of our most cherished families in the military community,” Walden said. “We wanted to make sure they didn’t go unnoticed and that the contributions of their loved ones who made the ultimate sacrifice did not go unnoticed.”

The Gold Star Family Memorial Monument being installed by WYO West is just one of many similar monuments installed in coordination with the nonprofit Woody Williams Foundation. There are currently 96 monuments installed with another 78 in progress, according to the Williams Foundation website.

While Wyoming does not currently have any of the monuments, two are being built: Sheridan’s memorial and another in Cheyenne.

“The memorial is a big deal,” said Whitney Benefits Executive Director Patrick Henderson. “There are people who will travel the country to visit these things. They are incredibly meaningful to other veterans and to these Gold Star families, who have lost so much.”

Gold Star Families Memorial Monuments are two-sided four-piece tributes made of black granite. 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.”

The other side features images related to the themes of homeland, family, patriot and sacrifice. At the center of this tribute is a silhouette of a saluting service member.

The monument costs $50,000, and the total cost including construction will likely exceed $85,000, Walden said. All funds for the project were raised by local residents and through the Marna M. Kuehne Foundation of Sheridan.

While Whitney Benefits did not donate financially to the project, they did contribute the land on which the monument will be installed, Walden said.

“Whitney was amazing to work with,” Walden said. “My proposal was that they give me a 10x10 or 12x12 piece of ground. They said, ‘What would you think about a park?’”

In addition to the memorial, the park will include benches and tables, Henderson said. It is proposed the space be named Patriot Park, and the pathway between Patriot Park and Kendrick Park be renamed Patriot Pathway.

Henderson said the location of the new park was perfect and paid tribute to some influential veterans in Whitney Benefits’ past. The organization’s founder Edward A. Whitney, was a Civil War veteran, Henderson said, and Henry Burgess — the namesake of the bridge leading from Patriot Pathway into Kendrick Park — was a longtime Whitney trustee and a World War II veteran.

“I think it’s just a great way to pay tribute to the history of our organization and of our community,” Henderson said. “It’s great when people can come together to do something good.”

Walden said he hopes to have the monument installed by Labor Day and is hoping to do a ribbon cutting before Gold Star Mother’s Day, which is Sept. 25. All plans are dependent on supply chain issues and when the necessary supplies arrive, Walden said.