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In memoriam

WWII veteran helps dedicate Gold Star Memorial

Jun 17 2019
Peter Kaspari | Messenger News

In dedicating the Gold Star Monument at Webster County Veterans Memorial Park Sunday, Hershel “Woody” Williams explained the history of the Gold Star and why it’s so important to both veterans and their families.

Williams, a 95-year-old World War II veteran from West Virginia who served in the United States Marine Corps, spoke to the crowd about the flags that were originally used in World War I, but are largely no longer used anymore.

If a family had someone fighting in the war, they would hang a flag with a blue star on it.

“In the unfortunate event that that loved one sacrificed their life, they then replaced it with the Gold Star,” Williams said. “That said to the folks in the community, ‘This loved one is not coming home.'”

Gold Star families are those who have lost a loved one in war. Several Gold Star families were present at the monument’s dedication.

Williams quoted a phrase that he had recently seen: “In life we loved you dearly. In death we love you still. In our hearts you hold a place no one can ever fulfill.”

For Gold Star families, Williams said nothing can be done to make their sadness go away. He told a story about an elderly woman in a nursing home, sitting in her wheelchair and holding in her hand the last letter she had received from her son in 1942.

“The grief never goes away,” he said. “The pain never stops.”

Just before the monument was dedicated, Williams asked that all Gold Star family members come up to the monument with him and join him in a prayer circle.

He told them that the families are the reason for the monument.

“It’s about you,” he said. “It’s not about us. It’s your cause. Not ours.”

Mary Field also spoke during the dedication. She is the mother of Sgt. Nathan R. Field, who was killed in Iraq while serving in the Army National Guard.

She described her son as someone who was very outgoing and loved by everyone.

“He never missed a day of high school, mainly because he did not want to miss what was going on,” Field said.

Nathan Field joined the Army Reserves when he was 17 years old.

“He took pride in all aspects of the military and became a sergeant at just 21,” she said. “Nathan then volunteered to go with his unit to Iraq where he was made a team leader.”

Mary Field said her son was always in touch with her, writing and calling frequently. She said one time he had to end their phone call because he had to salute his team on the great job they’d done that day.

And she said her son was always concerned about the well-being of his soldiers. He specifically mentioned two 18-year-olds and a 19-year-old that were in his unit.

On Jan. 7, 2006, Field said she felt an overwhelming sadness all day, and couldn’t explain why until she heard a knock on her door and learned her son had died when the Humvee he was driving collided with a civilian truck.

Also killed was the 19-year-old that Field had told his mom he was looking out for.

Mary Field said her son lives on through his family and friends.

“The impact he had on so many people of all ages has continued to impress me,” she said. “And he is not forgotten, even after these 13 years.”

She then asked the audience to think about Gold Star families and to remember them when they see a Gold Star flag or license plate.

“Being a Gold Star family is an honor no one wants, but it symbolizes the lives of those who gave all,” she said.

Her voice breaking, Field spoke to her son.

“I carry your heart with me,” she said. “I carry it in my heart. I am never without it. I love you, Nathan.”

Marine Corps Sgt. Dennys Canto gave a speech titled “Was it Worth It?” He said that’s a question people often ask friends, family and fellow service men and women when a loved one dies.

He quoted Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, who served in the administration of President Donald Trump. Kelly’s son, Robert Kelly, was killed in combat.

During an interview, John Kelly had said the only people who can answer that question and have the right to answer that question are those who died in combat.

“Who can deny the heartfelt wisdom and logic of General Kelly’s words?” Canto asked. “But just as we should not presume to speak for the fallen, we can make the country for which they have died a better place — one that honors their sacrifice and epitomizes the ideals and shine of our constitution.”

Canto said instead of asking that question, everyone should work together at making the country a better place.

“We should insist that America remains the land of the free,” he said. “A land of patriotism trumps politics, where the American flag is displayed proudly and frequently. And where military veterans are society’s true celebrities.”

The ceremony also featured a brief dedication of a Marine Corps monument not far from the Gold Star monument. The Marine Corps monument overlooks Badger Lake.