Apr 13 2018
That there are so few families that fit the definition of “Gold Star” illustrates the very reason we should be thankful for people like Hershel “Woody” Williams, who at age 94 still possesses the physical strength and mental acuity to carry out a Marine’s mission.
In his case, duties include traveling the country to make sure we understand the price of our freedom and that we properly honor those who have paid that price.
“I’ve never fully understood what makes some people say, ‘I want to serve my country, to be something greater than myself,’” Williams said Thursday at a groundbreaking ceremony in North Canton for a Gold Star Families Memorial Monument that will be completed and dedicated in a few months. “When (recruits) sign on that dotted line, they are offering their life.
“We pray those things (deaths) won’t happen, but they do. You win wars by sacrifice.”
Williams understands like few others. He received the Medal of Honor in 1945 for heroism at the Battle of Iwo Jima, the Pacific Theater site of nearly 7,000 American deaths.
At that time, Americans recognized Gold Star Mothers, but it has been only recently that wider families also were brought into the fold.
“This was something that was never actually talked about,” Williams said of the loss others in military families felt. “We never used the term ‘Gold Star Family,’ and I’m not sure why families were overlooked for so long. Fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles ... they have sacrificed, too.”
The Gold Star Families Memorial Monument in North Canton, honoring the loved ones of those who died serving in the military, will be the first of its kind in Stark County. With the groundbreaking, it joins nearly four dozen others in progress across the country. Nearly three dozen more have been completed — the first, in Institute, W.Va, was dedicated on Williams’ 90th birthday, Oct. 2, 2013.
“We thought, ‘That’s it. We’re done,’” he said Thursday.
Mission accomplished? Not quite. That pesky thing called the internet had other ideas, Williams said. Soon word spread, and the desire of other communities to honor military families in this way has grown each year.
Come July 7, spectators should be standing shoulder to shoulder when Williams returns to North Canton to help unveil the monument. Expect traffic around Price Park to be bumper to bumper. But that tiny inconvenience pales when compared to what the Gold Star Families have sacrificed for us.