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Downtown Owensboro’s Gold Star memorial will honor families of fallen veterans

Oct 27 2019
Katie Pickens | Owensboro Times

When Hershel “Woody” Williams visited Owensboro last April, Mayor Tom Watson met with him to discuss the notion of creating a Gold Star memorial in downtown Owensboro, right next to the Charles E. Shelton Memorial. Williams, a 96-year-old World War II veteran, has made it a mission to erect as many memorials as possible in honoring Gold Star families across the United States.

Williams was on board with the idea, and fundraising efforts for the memorial have taken off since that meeting took place. At a recent City Commission meeting, Watson said he hopes to have all the funds raised before August 2020.

According to the Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation, these Gold Star memorials serve as a stark reminder that “Freedom is not free.” These memorials are typically made of black granite and feature two sides.

“One side bears the words: Gold Star Families Memorial Monument, a tribute to Gold Star Families and Relatives who have sacrificed a Loved One for our Freedom,” while the other side tells a story through the four granite panels: Homeland, Family, Patriot and Sacrifice. The scenes on each panel are a reflection of each community’s Gold Star families and their fallen heroes.

At the center of each monument is what Williams’ foundation calls “the most distinct feature of the monument” — a cut-out that represents the loved one who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom.

“When Hershel Williams came to the Bluegrass Museum, we had dinner,” Watson said. “He was 95-years-old [at the time], and he was just so engaging — very sharp, and he’s made it a purpose for the rest of his life to put together monuments for Gold Star families.”

Watson mentioned the Gold Star family of fallen veteran Brandon Mullins, 21, who died on Aug. 25, 2011 in the Kandahar province of Afghanistan while assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team. Mullins was killed when his vehicle struck a roadside bomb.

Watson said he’s getting close to raising enough money for the project, adding that funding and support for the Gold Star memorial has been made possible, in part, because of Owensboro’s strong military presence.

“It’ll be right next to the Shelton Memorial, and it’ll be a really, really special thing,” he said. “Woody’s come back in August, so it’d be nice if we had everything ready to go by August of next year.”