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Learn about Gold Star Families Monument initiative

Johnson County's 30th annual Veterans Day observance will also be an opportunity to break ground for a Gold Star Families Memorial Monument, designed by the Hershel “Woody” Williams Medal of Honor Foundation based in Huntington, West Va.

A Marine veteran, Williams is the last surviving World War II Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima. His goal, through the foundation, is to erect at least one Gold Star Families Memorial Monument in every state. There are 12 finished Gold Star monuments in the nation with 40 projects in progress in 28 states. There is no project currently in the works in Kansas.

The foundation provides communities with a design for the Gold Star monuments. Each of the monuments are made of black granite or marble, have a gold star, a portion cut out to look like a missing solder and is engraved with: “A tribute to Mothers and Fathers and Gold Star families who sacrificed a loved one for our freedom.” It is roughly 15 feet in length, 6 feet in height, and a foot in width. The monument design can be viewed on the Williams’ foundation website.

Organizers of the Gold Star project have launched a campaign to raise at least $40,000 for the monument to be placed in Veterans Memorial Park, which is managed by the city of Olathe. Donations for the Gold Star monument are being handled by the Olathe Parks and Recreation Foundation, a 501c(3) organization. The foundation can be contacted at 913-971-8555. 

Total cost estimate for the monument is $45,000. The Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation contributes $5,000 toward local monument projects. Williams plans to visit Olathe on Nov. 18 to make the donation.

Major contributors toward the project will be listed at the monument site. As soon as funding is achieved, project organizers hope to install the monument in early 2017 and dedicate it on or near Memorial Day.

Johnson County’s annual Veterans Day observance began in 1987 with a public celebration on the south steps of the Johnson County Courthouse before moving to the Kansas National Guard Armory in Olathe from 1995 to 2006.

Since 2007, the county event has occurred at veteran memorial sites throughout Johnson County, including the cities of Overland Park, Merriam, Gardner and the New Century AirCenter near Gardner.