Nov 12 2018
Marianne Love | Los Angeles Daily News
It stands about 5-feet high, shiny and black in honor of military personnel killed in action.
The four-panel, granite Gold Star Families Memorial Monument was unveiled on Monday afternoon at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley in the “Gipper’s Grove” garden where the president and his wife are buried.
One side of the monument reads, “Gold Star Families Memorial Monument, a tribute to Gold Star families and relatives who have sacrificed a loved one for our freedom.”
The other side tells a story of “Homeland, Family, Patriot and Sacrifice” with corresponding pictures reflecting the local community.Near the center is a near life-size cut-out of a saluting soldier who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom. At sunset, the sun can be seen streaming through the figure.
The monument, which costs about $90,000, is one of two currently in California and is meant to preserve the memory of the fallen and stand as a stark reminder that freedom is not free.
The unveiling was part of a day-long program that drew Simi Valley residents Michelle Carranza and Melanie House.
Carranza lost her younger brother, Andrew-Britton-Mihalo, 25, in the Kandahar Province of Afghanistan on April 25, 2012, at a military post when an Afghani solider turned on his team.
Britton-Mihalo, who left behind a military wife, was in the 7th group of the Army’s Green Beret special forces.
“It brings me a lot of joy that there’ going to be a place, a sacred place so to speak, for families who have lost a love one to come and meditate,” Carranza said. “I couldn’t think of better location. It’s a perfect spot that looks over the entire Simi Valley. It’s peaceful.”
Melanie House lost her husband, John Daniel House, 28, who was killed in a helicopter crash Jan. 26, 2005, in Iraq, leaving behind a newborn son who is almost 14 years old now.
House, who lived in Moorpark, was a Navy corpsman and a Marine medic.
“Thirty marines and one navy corpsman all perished that day. They flew in the dark for fear of being shot down,” House said. House said it was very meaningful to be a part of Monday’s unveiling.
“I’m thrilled there is a place for families to go in my own hometown to honor their loved ones,” House said.
This monument is one of 46 monuments strewn across 40 states. Another 50 are planned, including three is Southern California.
The force behind their existence is Hershel “Woody” Williams born and raised on a dairy farm in 1923 in Quiet Dell, West Virginia.
He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and served in the Battle of Iwo Jima with the 21st Marines, 3d Marine Division.
On October 5, 1945, he received the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Truman at the White House for his “valiant devotion to duty” and service that “enabled his company to reach its objective.”
Williams is the sole surviving Marine from WWII to wear the Medal of Honor.
He said his inspiration for the monuments stemmed from two specific incidents.
“During a waiting period to join the Marines, I was delivering telegrams coming from the War Department through Western Union telling people about the death of their loved ones,” Williams said on Monday. “It left a definite impact on my mind.”
He also said his good friend growing up joined the Air Force and died in the Philippines, which also was impactful.
The goal of The Hershel “Woody” Williams Medal of Honor Foundation is to erect at least one in every state. Money is raised through grant writing, fundraiser and private donations.
A Gold Star Family member can be any mother, father, stepmother, stepfather, adoptive or foster parents, wife, husband, child, stepchild, adopted child, brothers, sisters, half brothers or sisters, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces or nephews who have sacrificed a loved one for our country’s freedom.