Jan 23 2020
Shelly Haskins | AL.com
They call them Gold Star Families.
They are the ones left behind. The fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters of service members who lost their lives for their country.
“Really, it’s the group that no one willingly joins,” said Julie Kink, whose brother, Warrant Officer David Kink, was a helicopter pilot who died in Vietnam in 1969 at the age of 19.
There is currently no monument anywhere in Alabama honoring those left behind. That will soon be rectified.
It was announced today that a Gold Star Families Memorial Monument will be installed this year at the Huntsville-Madison County Veterans Memorial.
The memorial will be almost identical to 59 others already erected across the country – a black granite monument with four panels: Homeland, Family, Patriot and Sacrifice. At the center, a silhouette of a saluting soldier, representing the hole the loss of a loved one leaves in a family and a community.
On the back will be images chosen by the local Gold Star Families Memorial Monument Committee that will best exemplify Homeland, Family, Patriot and Sacrifice.
The Hershel “Woody” Williams Medal of Honor Foundation is assisting local committees across the country in installing Gold Star Families Memorial Monuments nationwide.
Marshall Eubanks is a retired Army helicopter pilot whose father, Master Sgt. Carl M. Eubanks, died in Vietnam in 1967 at age 39. Last year he and Kink saw a story about the Gold Star Families monument effort.
Williams, a Medal of Honor recipient who is now 96, was giving a talk several years ago when he asked for recognition for any Gold Star Mothers in the crowd. After the speech, one man remained in the back row, head in his hands.
When Williams approached him, the man, who had lost a son in Afghanistan, said, “Dads cry too.”
That inspired Williams to spearhead the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument effort.
After reading about the effort, “we decided, we need to do this somewhere in Huntsville,” said Eubanks, who is chairman of the Alabama Gold Star Families Memorial Monument Committee.
So they talked with John Perry and retired Brig. Gen. Robert Drolet of the Huntsville-Madison County Veterans Memorial Foundation and approached the City of Huntsville about getting it done.
Less than a year later, Mike and Christine Wicks of defense contractor I3 signed on as the project sponsor, contributing a substantial portion of the needed money, and the monument has been ordered.
“This will be the first of its kind in Alabama,” Eubanks said.
Now, a plaza must be built along Patriot’s Walkway on the Veterans Memorial grounds, and money must be raised for site preparation, benches, placards and maintenance of the monument.
The committee plans to raise money through direct donations, and eventually by selling commemorative engraved bricks for the plaza. They hope to have a dedication before the end of the year.
It’s estimated that more than 6,000 people in Alabama could be considered Gold Star family members, but until this recent campaign, there’s been no real effort to memorialize their sacrifice for their country.
“That’s one of the reasons that this is needed,” Kink said. “It gives Alabama an opportunity to educate.”
Visit hmcvm.org and click on “Gold Star Families Memorial Monument.”