The Gold Star is a symbol of honor within the United States Armed Forces that recognizes and honors the families of service members killed in combat.
The memory of the fallen warrior is often honored by wearing a Gold Star on a lapel or displaying a Gold Star Service Flag in a home window.
The Hershel “Woody” Williams Medal of Honor Foundation takes the concept another step, paying tribute to the soldiers and their families with Gold Star Families Memorial Monuments across the country — and, soon, in Medina.
Medina resident Mickey Kennedy is a catalyst in generating interest in the project. During his service in the Air Force, he spent more than three years in Germany, and after at working various odd jobs, returned to the military as a Special Forces Combat Medic.
Kennedy says, “I did serve, but I am not a hero. Please do not call me one, because the real heroes did not come home. This project is about them … the fallen warriors and their families.”
Kennedy told The Gazette in an interview that he became involved as an honorary board member of the Williams Medal of Honor Foundation about a year ago after hearing Williams speak about his mission to honor Gold Star families.
Williams, a recipient of the Medal of Honor for bravery and actions in the World War II Battle of Iwo Jima, worked as a cab driver during his youth and often delivered Western Union telegram death notices. It was an emotional experience for both the grieving families and Williams, who would carry his experiences as a cab driver with him for the rest of his life.
“He began working with American Gold Star Mothers, which is a group that formed after the first World War to recognize grieving mothers,” explained Kennedy.
“He was giving a speech to a veterans group to gain support. He noticed a man who was acting funny — you know, almost uncomfortable — who later approached him with tears streaming down his cheeks to say, ‘Dads cry, too.’ He was so moved by that experience that he decided to honor and recognize Gold Star families, and not just mothers. That story moved me, too,” Kennedy said.
“We hear about people dying in the line of service, but it is too easy to forget about how families suffer that loss. When their children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews, or siblings do not come home, all they have are memories. Memories are the most valuable things one can have, because they will last forever. The Gold Star Families Memorial Monuments will be a place for those families to visit and reflect on their memories, and they now have a chance to honor veterans with a donation to the project.”
The memorial will be constructed at the Champion Creek trailhead in the green space behind Spokes Caf￩, 406 S. Broadway St., Medina. The project will cost an estimated $120,000 and will feature a granite memorial with rows of crisscrossing bricks and benches.
Kennedy began a buy-a-brick fundraiser for the project. Donations of $100 to $500 will give sponsors the opportunity to honor a family member with a “you design it” brick. Larger donations of $3,500 or $4,500 will purchase granite benches.
“The crisscrossing bricks represent soldiers who didn’t make it home,” said Kennedy. “Each bench monument is meant to represent a different branch of the military, including the United States Merchant Marine fleet. During World War II, countless vessels were taken down by German submarines, and the casualties were unimaginable. They are now recognized as a branch of the military, although at the time they were denied recognition.”
Kennedy said he is already receiving support from the community. “Our goal is to sell 1,500 bricks, and already we have sold about 45. The Medina Sunrise Rotary has done fundraising for us, and they have sent out our information to other local rotary clubs so there may be even more support.
“Scott Durham, of New Jersey, has even offered support. He partners with an engraver and tool vendor to make customized military multitools to honor and thank veterans, and he has donated a multitool to Woody Williams as a way of thanking him for honoring vets and their families. He heard about us through the grapevine, so support is coming in from all over.”
Kennedy says that Durham makes multitools at no charge, and has a goal of honoring 25,000 veterans.
He encourages the families of veterans to visit www.militarymultitool.wordpress.com to order a customized military tool for them.
Kennedy is seeking volunteers to offer labor and knowledge for the construction, donate needed materials, purchase paver bricks, and participate as corporate sponsors. To get a contribution form and more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about the Hershel “Woody” Williams Medal of Honor Foundation, visit www.hwwmohfoundation.org.