Groundbreaking Ceremony held for memorial to families of the fallen
With six gold shovels standing in formation near the flagpoles at Florence Veterans Park, a small group of committee members and supporters gathered Oct. 3 to hold a groundbreaking ceremony for a Gold Star Families Monument.
The monument, which will be constructed and erected by Brown Memorials, will be unveiled at this year’s Veterans Day event on Nov. 11
Barry Wingard, chairperson of the Florence Veterans Park Committee, said this will be the first time a groundbreaking has been held for a monument at the park. He said the decision to hold a groundbreaking for this particular monument was because “there have been more contributions from more people” than for any other monument.
He encouraged the public, but especially all Gold Star families, to attend this year’s Veteran’s Day ceremony and said the guest speaker would be Brigadier General Jeffrey R. Johnson of the South Carolina National Guard. Johnson is a Pee Dee native.
“This beautiful monument will be a welcome addition to this fantastic Veterans Park,” said Gold Star committee member Peggy Moore. “As a Gold Star widow I know this monument will serve as a place all Gold Star families can visit and know the generous people of Florence care and will always care and remember the never-ending sacrifices made by these families and the mourning that continues day after day.”
Eddie Collins serves as the chairman of the Gold Star Committee and is the person who first suggested building the monument. He brought the idea to the city’s Parks and Recreation Department after seeing the Gold Star Monument at Patriot’s Pointe in Mt. Pleasant.
The cost of the monument is near $50,000. A portion of the funding came from the Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation, a not-for-profit organization which assists in establishing permanent Gold Star Families monuments. There are presently 54 Gold Star Families monuments in the U.S.
Each monument must meet certain uniform requirements. The black granite monument features four sections and two sides. One side bears the words: 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 through the four granite panels: homeland, family, patriot, and sacrifice. The scenes on each panel are a reflection of each community’s Gold Star families and their fallen heroes. At the center of this tribute is the most distinct feature of the monument, the cut out of a saluting solider, which represents the loved one who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom.
The front of the Florence monument read Gold Star Families Monument: A Tribute To Those Who Made The Ultimate Sacrifice For Our Freedom And the Families they Life Behind.
The monument will be positioned so that the cutout of the saluting solider between the first and second blocks of the monument will reveal the American Flag waving in the background.
The back of the monument will have an etching of a flag presentation during a funeral. There is also a Palmetto tree and crescent moon, an outline of state of South Carolina, and the six emblems of the United States Armed Services.
The inscription on the back of the monument reads:
“The Gold Star Family monument recognizes the pain, grief and agony that Gold Star family members endure with the death of a parent, child, spouse, sibling, or other loved ones who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the United States Armed Forces.
The men and women who serve in the uniform of our military are the strength and stability of our nation. And, the strength and the stability of those men and women are dependent upon the families at home. No one has given more to our nation than the families of the fallen.
We, as a country, are forever grateful for sacrifice of these families and their loved ones who gave it all.”
The is also an inscription of a Bible verse from Matthew 5:4: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Donna Harter, a Gold Star mother, also spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony. Harter’s son, Marine Cpl. Kelly Keith, was killed in a helicopter crash in 2000. He was 22.
“This is holy ground,” said an emotional Harter.