A Gold Star Families Memorial Monument at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. The monument is designed to honor Gold Star Families, preserve the memory of the fallen and serve as a reminder that freedom is not free. (U.S. Air Force photo/Ken Larock)

A Gold Star Families Memorial Monument at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. The monument is designed to honor Gold Star Families, preserve the memory of the fallen and serve as a reminder that freedom is not free. (U.S. Air Force photo/Ken Larock)

Forks raising funds for Gold Star Families Memorial

FORKS — Organizers are appealing to the public for funds to erect a memorial for families who have lost loved ones in combat.

The Gold Star Families Memorial Monument is planned for the plaza at Forks Transit Center, 551 S. Forks Ave., organizers announced recently after Clallam Transit and the City of Forks gave permission for it to be placed there.

“Every war has touched somebody in this community,” said Janet Hughes, co-chairman with her husband Thomas Hughes of the Forks committee. The two also are honorary members of the national Hershel “Woody” Williams Medal of Honor Foundation, which creates the memorials.

The members of the Fletcher-Wittenborn Post 9106, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and their auxiliary have registered with the foundation to begin fundraising efforts to build the monument.

The cost of the monument is about $90,000. Right now, the Forks committee has raised $5,300.

“So we have a long way to go,” J. Hughes said.

Organizers aim to wrap up fundraising by April, break ground in June and dedicate the monument on Sept. 29, on Gold Star Mothers and Gold Star Families Day.

Along with writing grants, committee members are asking the community to assist with such fundraising programs as dinners and bakes sales.

No events had been scheduled as of Friday, J. Hughes said.

Donations can be made at http://hwwmohf.org/forks-wa.html.

Talk today

A brief talk, open to the public, about the project is planned today at a luncheon at the VFW hall at 110 S. Spartan Ave., that will follow the 11 a.m. Veterans Day ceremony offered by VFW and American Legion members at the Forks Transit Center.

The ceremony also will note the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I when the treaty was signed on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

When the monument becomes reality, it will be the first of its kind in the Pacific Northwest — Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana, J. Hughes said.

“This is one project that cannot fail,” she emphasized.

Many families in Forks have lost family members in military combat, she said.

Choking up with tears, J. Hughes said that among the local stories she has heard is one about a set of twins considering fighting in the Korean War.

“One said no and the other went and now is missing in action,” she said.

“That’s why (President Donald) Trump going over (to Korea) and getting that agreement signed to bring bodies back is so important,” she said. “It’s really important to get an answer for those families.”

The black granite, 15,000-pound monument will feature on one side the words “Gold Star Families Memorial Monument, a tribute to Gold Star Families and Relatives who have sacrificed a Loved One for our Freedom,” while the other side will reflect the local community through granite panels depicting Homeland, Family, Patriot and Sacrifice created in Forks.

At the center of the tribute will be a cut-out that represents a person who died in battle.

No names will be on the memorial.

At the Transit Center Plaza, it will join other memorials: the Blue Star Memorial Highway marker placed by the Bogachiel Garden Club, the Spartan Memorial for those who have died too soon and a Smoke Bush in memory of Lance Cpl. Jason Hanson who lost his life in Iraq on July 29, 2006.

The national effort was created in 2010 by Woody Williams, an Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient, who realized when a loved one made the ultimate sacrifice in the military that the loss was to the entire family and their relatives.

“The monument is not a war memorial, but for families who are here in the West End and those who visit,” said a story in the Forks Forum, which is edited by Christi Baron, who is also a member of the local committee.

”These families have had to survive knowing every day, every holiday would be different because their loved one is not here.”

Williams’ goal is to eventually have at least one monument in every state, J. Hughes said. As of Aug. 1, some 39 monuments have been dedicated with 41 more in progress, representing 37 states, mostly in the eastern United States.

Fundraising

The American Legion and other veterans groups are taking part in raising funds for the project.

In addition to the Hughes and Baron, other Forks committee members are Mike Rowley, Bill Plumley and Mike McCracken.

All members have pins or coins available for an incentive giving program.

A donation of $25 or more may be returned by a lapel pin with the monument on it with Forks at the base of the monument.

A donation of $100 or more may result in the donor getting a special two-inch coin made specifically for the creation of the Forks monument. The coin has the monument on the front with five service medallions on the back. In the center of the medallions is a folded flag.

Each coin is numbered, with only 250 coins available.

In 1917, people would hang a blue star banner to let their neighbors and community know they had a loved one fighting in the war. A gold star represented a family member who was killed in action.

“Every family who has a blue star prays that they never have a gold star,” J. Hughes said.

The point of the Gold Star monument is to ensure that those lost in combat are not forgotten, committee members said.

For more information, or to schedule a program on the monument, contact the VFW at 360-374-5489 or J. Hughes at 360-640-1401 evenings.

________

Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at [email protected].

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