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Groundbreaking launches Gold Star Families memorial project at Washington Crossing National Cemetery

Dec 8, 2017 

Joan Hellyer | The Intelligencer


Dedication of the estimated $80,000 monument is expected in the spring.

For Julie Craven Haralambous, the thought of having a Gold Star Families memorial at the national cemetery in Upper Makefield hits very close to home.

It will be yet another reminder of the pain she and her family have lived with since her brother, Scott Craven, a U.S. Air Force captain, died in 2006. The 1997 Conwell-Egan Catholic High School graduate was killed in a car crash while stationed at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia. 

“I miss my brother Scott,” the Bensalem native said Friday. “It is a loss that can not be replaced.” 

Haralambous shared her family’s grief with an estimated 100 people who huddled in the cold late Friday afternoon to witness the ceremonial groundbreaking of a Gold Star Families memorial at Washington Crossing National Cemetery. The black granite monument will pay tribute to families whose loved one died during military service. It will be the first Gold Star Families monument positioned in a national cemetery in the United States. 


“We appreciate that very much,” Haralambous said. “It will be seen and appreciated by hundreds of people every week, including our youth. It will help them understand the sacrifices that have been made.”

John and Bernadette Heenan, of Northampton, two longtime members of the nonprofit Guardians of the National Cemetery, spent much of the past year working with the Hershel “Woody” Williams Medal of Honor Foundation to secure federal permission to erect the monument at the 205-acre cemetery off Highland and Washington Crossing roads. It will be built near the cemetery’s visitors center. 

Williams, a World War II veteran and Medal of Honor recipient, paid a quick visit to Upper Makefield on Friday to lead the ceremonial groundbreaking. He said he was impressed with the local efforts to bring the monument to the national cemetery. 

“That is America and that is who we are,” the 94-year-old West Virginia resident said. “We need more of that. We should never forget the sacrifices.” 

Through his nonprofit foundation, Williams has spearheaded the national effort to honor families who have lost a loved one during his or her military service. 

The first monument was built in 2013. There are now 21 dedicated monuments and another 47 in progress at sites across the country. The memorials include different panels that tell a story about “Homeland, Family, Patriot, and Sacrifice” and pay tribute to the grieving family members and their lost loved one. 

The $80,000 Gold Star Families monument at the cemetery will be funded with private donations. The memorial’s dedication is expected to take place in the spring. 

“It is an honor and a privilege to have the monument,” said Gregory J. Whitney, the cemetery director. “We are thankful it will be in a position where everyone will be able see it.”

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