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Justice dedicates Gold Star Families Memorial Highway

Oct 1 2020
Jerssica Farrish | The Register-Herald

A portion of the West Virginia Turnpike – from Mile Marker 39 to Mile Marker 93 – is now recognized as the Gold Star Families Memorial Highway, in honor of those who have lost an immediate family member during a time of conflict.

Justice, whose father was a U.S. Air Force captain during World War II but rarely discussed his wartime experiences, unveiled the highway sign at the dedication.

Cabinet Secretary of Veterans' Assistance Dennis Davis said the dedication is a "wonderful occasion."

"I must say that every time we get together, good things happen," Davis said of Gov. Justice. "I'm reminded of veteran's legislation we tried so hard..and couldn't get it across the finish line.

"Governor, you did it for us."

Gold Star Mothers attended the event and were recognized.

Medal of Honor Recipient Woody Williams addressed the small crowd, which observed social distancing guidelines outside at Tamarack.

"We're not here about us," said Williams. "We're here about them."

He asked those with loved ones who are or were members of the U.S. Armed Forces to stand.

"You are the Gold Star family of West Virginia," he noted.

Williams told the crowed that in 2013, West Virginia was the first state in the nation to erect a Gold Star Family Memorial highway marker.

"They did it to honor those 11,477 individuals who sacrificed their lives for West Virginia in World War I," he said. "We have done a terrific job, I think, of recognizing and paying tribute to veterans for their service.

"Nothing has been done for the families of those who never got to come home."

Williams said he was thrilled that Gov. Justice approved placement of the sign on the West Virginia Turnpike.

"There are going to be untold numbers of individuals that are going to read this sign and perhaps realize, for the first time, there is a group of people who sacrificed one of their own for all of us," Williams said.

State Secretary of Transportation Byrd White III, Jimmy Wriston and State Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Austin Caperton and West Virginia Parkways Authority Board Member Doug Epling attended, along with elected officials.

Justice spoke after Williams.

"For me to be all in, it's nothing. It's just nothing," he said. "It's what I ought to be doing.

"From the standpoint of whether it be Woody's persistence or Dennis' persistence to do things like the recognition we're going to be able to do right here for that 54 miles, maybe, just maybe, that those who come behind us for years and years and years will absolutely never forget and they'll always step up."

Williams, the 11th child in his family, is celebrating his 97th birthday on Oct. 2, and Justice led the crowd in singing "Happy Birthday" and surprised Williams with an early birthday cake.

"God has a purpose in giving me life, and he let me keep it," said Williams, adding that he'd had "many miracles" in his life, starting with his premature birth and survival.