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Never forgotten: Gold Star Mothers of Cochise County host memorial groundbreaking in Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery

May 4 2019

Emily Ellis | Herald/Review

SIERRA VISTA — After nearly a year of planning and passive fundraising, the Gold Star Mothers of Cochise County broke ground on what will soon be the site of a memorial honoring the families of those whose loved ones died in service to their country.

The groundbreaking ceremony, which also served as the official kickoff of the organization’s fundraising efforts, was attended by community members from throughout the area, who gathered under clear skies on Saturday morning to watch the Gold Star Mothers and other supportive local veterans organizations take the first steps towards building what will be a 14–foot long black granite structure, featuring the outline of a saluting soldier.

Sheron Jones was one of the Gold Star parents who took up a shovel during the ceremony.

Jones, whose son Darrel Kasson died in 2007 in Iraq, said that it was “hard to explain” the significance that such memorials had for families left behind.

“It means a lot to all of us for these kinds of things to go up,” said Jones, who is president of the Tucson chapter of the Gold Star Mothers. Tucson dedicated a memorial statue honoring Gold Star Families in March, after years of effort on Jones’ part.

“People seem to forget us,” she said. “Same thing in Tucson, they seem to forget, and we don’t want anyone to forget what we’ve been through for this country.”

In some cases, decades had passed since a child died. One of the mothers in attendance, Sara Piotrowski of Tucson, lost her son John Delozier in Vietnam, in 1967.

“It’s very emotional,” said Piotrowski of the memorial being erected. “I think it’s wonderful.”

Experiencing Gold Star

After the groundbreaking, Heather Hocker, founder and president of the Gold Star Mothers of Cochise County, spoke about her own experiences as a Gold Star parent.

Hocker’s son, Joel, was killed in Mississippi while in service to the U.S. Army in September 2011.

“I read a statistic that said when anyone dies, 144 people are affected,” said Hocker. “For every service member that falls, 144 people are left behind to mourn ... We started this project to honor all those families that are left behind to mourn.”

Hocker concluded her speech by reciting a Civil War-era poem, “Who Will Care for Mother Now?” spoken through the point of view of a dying soldier.

“Now I know who will care for Mother now,” she said, gesturing to the multiple veterans groups gathered at the cemetery. “It is all the people who are standing here, helping to raise the funds to place this memorial.”

Through passive fundraising efforts, the Gold Star Mothers have raised around a quarter of their $65,000 goal.

They hope to raise the rest and have the monument, which will be built by local contractor Rutherford Diversified Industries, fully in place by the fall.

"Not eligible"

McKim, who said that he was “not eligible” to be a Gold Star Family member despite having relatives who served in every war since the American Revolution, said that supporting the effort was a way for “veterans to serve veterans.”

Supporters of the memorial project hope that it will be a way to let grieving families know they are not forgotten, Hocker said.

Those who have lost a loved one often feel ostracized, she continued, because “no one wants to talk about death.”

“That’s why it’s so important to have this memorial,” she said. “Because it gives the families, those in the darkness, those who can’t come out, it gives them a place to go, and to know they were not forgotten.”

To donate, visit https://squareup.com/store/GSMCC. Those who donate $100 or more will receive a “challenge coin,” and donors who give $1,000 or more will have their name placed on a permanent plaque near the monument.

Checks can be mailed to the Gold Star Mothers of Cochise County, 1838 Paseo San Luis, Suite 41, Sierra Vista, AZ 85635.

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