May 5 2020
John Peters |Mount Airy News
It is among the most exclusive of groups in America — and one which no one wishes to join.
Gold Star families.
That is the designation given to families who have lost loved ones in military service. While those who are lost are often memorialized — and appropriately so — as having made the supreme sacrifice for their nation, their families also make the highest level of sacrifice.
Soon, those families from this region of North Carolina, as well as Southwest Virginia, will have a Gold Star Memorial Monument built in their honor.
The VFW Mark Garner Post 7794 in Elkin has been working to raise $70,000 to build such a monument in that town, part of a nationwide effort by the Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation to erect memorials across the nation.
“We’re at $53,000 now,” said John Garing, who is helping to oversee the project. With another large pledge still not counted, he says they’re close to wrapping up the fundraising.
Initially, he said the VFW planned for the monument to be mostly for Elkin-area residents and those folks living in the parts of Surry, Yadkin and Wilkes counties close to the town, but then he received calls and contacts from individuals across Surry County, from neighboring counties, and even in Virginia. Most of them were members of that club — Gold Star families — who had heard of his efforts and wanted to say how much they appreciated the drive to build a monument for them.
“We don’t have a monument to honor the families, the brothers and sisters, the moms and dads, who paid the ultimate price and gave a loved one. … So this is really for all of the region,” he said. “This is going to be representative of the whole area around here because of the Gold Star members spread out throughout Northwest North Carolina, Southwest Virginia. I don’t want to limit our scope, this is all for them, those are who we’re doing it for.”
The monument, to be made of blank granite, will be 6 feet tall and 12 feet long, and weigh 18,000 pounds.
Fueled by donations from Walmart stores in Mount Airy and Elkin, Garing said the fundraising is nearing the final stages — “We can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” — and the next step is to hold a groundbreaking ceremony.
“We had one set for April 29,” he said. But Gov. Roy Cooper placed the state under a stay-at-home order as a response to the spread of COVID-19, and that date was scrapped. The ground-breaking will be rescheduled as soon as possible, he said, once some of the stay-at-home restrictions are lifted.
Despite being close to the end of the fundraising, Garing said individuals may still make contributions.
“We are, yes, still wanting people if they feel moved in their heart, yes we’d be delighted to have their donations.” Thus far, donations have ranged from $25 to $25,000, with most in the $100 to $250 range. He said any amount is important.
“The $25 donations mean just as much as the bigger ones, those people just want to be part of something that’s going to be honoring those moms and dads … who have an empty space.”
Once completed, it will be one of a growing movements of such memorials. There are already nearly 60 in existence spread across 42 states, with about 60 more in progress, as the one in Elkin is, all part of the Medal of Honor Foundation’s efforts to remember the families of those who have died in military service.
Donations may be made by check or money order to VFW members or mailed to VFW Post 7794, P.O. Box 246, Elkin, NC 28621. Make checks and money orders payable to VFW Post 7794/Gold Star Memorial. Online donations may be made at elkin firstname.lastname@example.org (Note the blank space to denote the missing person.)