Armed Forces Museum breaks ground for new Gold Star Family monument
Camp Shelby-- A Gold Star Families Memorial Monument honoring the families of Mississippi service members killed in the line of duty is becoming a reality.
A memorial groundbreaking ceremony was held at the Armed Forces Museum, located on Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center, Jan. 11. The monument is the first in the state.
“This is a well-deserved memory for Gold Star Families and Mothers,” said George Cain, Army Survivor Outreach Services Program coordinator. “I think this is a tremendous testimony to the memory of those who have served us so well.”
Gold Star Families are those who lost a loved one in military service. The gold star designation dates back to World War I when families would display a blue star for a loved one serving in the war. A gold star replaced it if they were killed in combat.
Mississippi Gold Star Families were the guests of honor during the ceremony. Among them were Eddie and Jenny Smith, of Brandon, who lost their son, Marine Staff Sgt. Jason Rogers, in Afghanistan in April 2011.
“(Gold Star Families) can come here and reflect on the sacrifices of their loved ones,” Jenny said. “A lot of times those family members are forgotten, so this is for them.”
Gov. Phil Bryant said while Mississippi’s fallen heroes already have monuments to honor their sacrifices, this one pays tribute to those who most felt that loss.
“Whether it was in World War I or the war on terror, Mississippi has a number of Gold Star Families,” he said. “We want to honor them. This memorial will be here for generations making sure we honor their sacrifices.”
The black granite monument is located in front of the museum. The front will bear the words “Gold Star Families Memorial Monument, a tribute to Gold Star mothers, fathers, and relatives who have sacrificed a loved one for our freedom.” The other side will tell a story through four granite panels highlighting homeland, family, patriot and sacrifice.
“If we don’t continue to remember through memorials, we would soon forget and it would fade away,” said Bryant. “It is important to us that we never forget the sacrifices that were made for our freedoms and this memorial will do just that; help us remember.”
According to the Hershel “Woody” Williams Foundation, 17 memorials have been built in the northern and eastern states. More than 30 monuments, including the one at Camp Shelby, are in progress nationally. Other memorials are envisioned in the northern, central, and southern areas of Mississippi.
“There is nothing like this in Mississippi,” Jenny Smith said. “It is very important that it’s here at Camp Shelby because there is a lot of traffic here. A lot of Soldiers train here and a lot of young people who come through the museum and can learn what a Gold Star Family is.”
The Williams Foundation donated $5,000 to the memorial tribute. The foundation is a non-profit organization founded by Williams, a Medal of Honor recipient from the battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. Its goal is to honor Gold Star Families, relatives and Gold Star Children, by establishing permanent memorial monuments in communities throughout the country and provide scholarships to the families of the fallen.