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Monument to honor Gold Star families

Nov 20 2018
Wendy Byerly Wood | Elkin Tribune

A new memorial honoring families who have lost soldiers in service is in the future for Elkin, thanks to the dedication of local veterans. 

Jon Garing and Richard Hackler, commander of the Elkin VFW post, approached town officials during the Nov. 13 commissioners meeting asking for permission to locate a future monument near the American flag at Elkin Municipal Park. 

Adam McComb, recreation and parks director for the town, said the Recreation Advisory Board already has heard the proposal and approved recommending it to the commissioners. 

“About three months ago, as a post of about 90 members now, we decided we wanted to do something for veterans and the families in this area,” said Garing. “We went back and forth about who, what and where to do this, and Richard found this and we explored it and voted to move forward with it.”

The plan is to raise about $70,000 to purchase and install a Gold Star Families and Relatives monument, which recognizes the sacrifices of the families who have lost loved ones in service to the country, the veterans explained. 

“What touched our hears about this was, this is a monument not for the veterans of wars; it’s for the families that have lost someone in the war — a brother, sister, loved one,” Garing said. 

Elkin’s VFW post renamed itself in memory of Capt. Mark Garner, who died in 2015 in service. Garing said he reached out to Beth Garner, Mark’s mother, said “she was overwhelmed that we were wanting to do this.” 

“We are looking for other folks or families also to let them know this is what we wanted to do,” Garing said. 

“I and Richard, we are the lucky ones, we made it back. This is for the ones that never did,” he said. “A lot of times it’s like Beth said, she said, ‘I’m so pleased because after all the pomp and circumstance, I feel like I’m kind of forgotten.’ 

“She already told us she would be thrilled to have Mark’s memorial moved over with it,” Garing said of locating the monument at the park’s flag pole. 

Acknowledging the task at hand will be a large one, raising so much money, but he said they aren’t asking for any town funding, just the permission for its location. 

“I think it’s something that will hopefully get support from all three counties [Surry, Yadkin and Wilkes], because we feel like all three counties end up in this spot,” Garing said. “It would just really stand out, and we would be honored it would do that.” 

Hackler said in his years of living outside of Washington, D.C., one thing he always thought was missing in the Capitol was a monument recognizing the sacrifices of soldiers’ families. “I don’t think it was intentional, but 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.” 

This would be the third monument of its kind in North Carolina, with the other two in the eastern part of the state. Garing and Hackler said they feel it would be a visiting spot for Gold Star families from throughout the western part of the state. 

“I want to recognize the sum is great, but we do believe it is a worthy project. I think it would be a very good representative for the town of Elkin,” Hackler said. 

The commissioners unanimously agreed to allow the monument to be placed at the park, with a mention that a more focal location may be determined in the town’s work toward a comprehensive master plan. The VFW representatives were favorable to that option as well.