City breaks ground on a place of reflection that honors grieving Gold Star familiesJun 02, 2023 10:26AM ● By Mimi Darley Dutton
When a family loses a loved one, part of the grieving process is a longing for that person never to be forgotten. That’s particularly important to military families whose soldiers gave their lives on behalf of others. The term for those families is Gold Star, and the city broke ground on a monument at Draper Park to recognize their sacrifice and remember their loved ones.
According to the United Service Organizations (USO), the term Gold Star dates back to WWI when military families displayed service flags featuring a blue star for every immediate family member serving in the Armed Forces. The star’s color would change to gold if they lost a loved one in war.
“So many communities, they don’t know what a Gold Star family is…every community needs to realize that Gold Star families are living amongst them,” said Chas Graham, former president and CEO of the Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation.
Kim and Todd Olsen are Utah military parents. Their older son joined the Navy and their younger son, Nigel, was a Marine. On March 4, 2010, Nigel lost his life in Afghanistan at the age of 21. Kim spoke at the groundbreaking and expressed gratitude to the city for the project. “Gold Star families are unique but we share one thing in common—grieving that loved one who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country. This monument will be a place of permanence for Gold Star families to gather…it belongs to us and our sacrifice,” she said.
Kim shared the history of Hershel “Woody” Williams who inspired these monuments. Born in 1923, Williams joined the Marine Corps and served in the battle of Iwo Jima. He received the Congressional Medal of Honor (the highest award a military person can receive) from President Truman at the White House in 1945. “But before Woody went into the Marine Corps, his job was to deliver telegrams to those Gold Star families, letting them know their loved one had been killed…a telegram! He noted that consideration for and recognition of families of those in military service was very inadequate and that brought about the creation of the Woody Williams Foundation and Gold Star Families memorial monuments,” Kim said.
Tony and Amy Galvez lost their son, Cpl. Adam Galves, and Tony spoke at the groundbreaking. He began his remarks by thanking Vietnam veterans. “They were not given the proper welcome or thanks…so thank you from a grateful nation, a grateful father, and welcome home,” he said.
Tony noted that people like his son “go in others’ stead so that people on the other side of the world can enjoy the freedoms that we have here in the U.S. that we often take for granted.” He said the monument “will be a wonderful place for the community to come and understand what that sacrifice means.”
Jennie Taylor, widow of Major Brent Taylor, attended the ceremony. Brent was mayor of North Ogden while also serving in the Army National Guard. He was killed in Afghanistan in 2018. Draper Mayor Troy Walker reflected on Brent in his remarks. “He was my friend, and I won’t forget where I was when I found out about Brent. He was a good man, a good friend, and a good leader. He served his country in ways he didn’t even have to at his age and rank. Jennie, your husband was amazing, and he was a hero,” Walker said.
The monument will made of black granite and two-sided. All Gold Star monuments are the same on the front, but Draper City officials got to choose what the four back panels will represent: homeland, family, patriot and sacrifice. Funds are still being raised for the monument and interested persons can visit the city’s website to donate (draperutah.gov) or call chief of staff Kellie Challburg at 801-576-6513.
“No one joins the military thinking they’ll be a Gold Star family. I hope this monument will be a place where people can come, sit and reflect on the sacrifice given by these folks,” Walker said. λ