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Gold Star Families memorial honors those left behind

Memorial Day is a time we honor fallen soldiers, but what about those left behind by those who made the ultimate sacrifice?

May 21 2020
Brian Funk | Galax Gazette

Gold Star Families are those who have lost a soldier in battle. While their loved one might have a granite monument or their name on a highway or bridge, the families often have no such symbol of respect.

To fix that oversight, members of the Capt. Mark Garner Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7794 in Elkin, N.C., are working to raise $70,000 to install a monument honoring all Gold Star Families in Western North Carolina and Southwest Virginia.

Jon Garing of the VFW post is chairman of the monument undertaking. In a letter to The Gazette, he explained how the plans came about.

“We have seen the memorials that a grateful nation has raised in order to honor the sacrifices of our military personnel; these sacrifices that the men and women of our armed forces continue to make in order to preserve not only our freedom, but also to sustain freedom for the rest of the world,” Garing wrote.

“Perhaps the greatest sacrifices that are made have up to now been painfully forgotten in the public place,” he wrote. “This sacrifice comes from the Gold Star Families who have lost a loved one in the support of freedom’s cause.”

Garing shared the words of a Gold Star mother form the Elkin area, Beth Garner: “We feel we have been forgotten.”

“When I heard this, it broke my heart,” Garing said, “but my sadness does nothing to address this hurt. They will forever have an empty chair at every meal, every holiday and family gathering.”

However, this group of veterans enlisted in a new mission to bring honor and recognition to these families.

Garing said the memorial the post wants to buy and install was designed by World War II veteran and Medal of Honor recipient Herschel “Woody” Williams. Similar monuments have been placed in communities in 42 states.

In an article in the Elkin Tribune newspaper, Garing described the planned black granite monument as six feet tall and 12 feet long. The estimated 18,000-pound structure would be placed in Elkin Municipal Park. The Tribune reported that the Town of Elkin has approved a site for the monument in the park, near an existing VFW flagpole and a World War II memorial.

“After the funeral, after the color guard, after everyone turns out to honor the fallen one, what happens then?” Garing said in the Tribune. “This will be a place where they can go and feel it was built for their child.”

Garing said that the VFW is seeking donations to help build the monument from a wide area, as it will honor families in two states. Walmart stores in Elkin and Mount Airy have made large donations to the cause, and a number of churches in the region have been approached about helping out. The VFW post has donated $5,000 to the effort, as well.

Richard Hackler, commander of the Elkin VFW post, told the Tribune that when he lived near Washington, D.C., he always felt there should be a monument there to recognize the sacrifices of soldiers’ families. “So much attention is given to those who lose their life, we forget there is a family with an empty seat at every holiday. It is a way to show we appreciate, respect and want to honor the sacrifice they have made in the loss of this loved one.”

To donate to the effort online, visit and click the red “Donate” button in the upper right of the page. Or, made a donation (check or money order) by mail to VFW Post 7794, P.O. Box 246, Elkin, N.C. 28621. Make checks or money orders payable to “VFW Post 7794/Gold Star Memorial.” For more information, call Jon Garing at (336) 366-9700 or email