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Gold Star Families Monument to be Built at Veterans Memorial

Nov. 18, 2016 

Hank Hayes | TimesNews 

KINGSPORT — The Kingsport Chamber of Commerce announced Monday a Gold Star Families Memorial Monument will be built at the Veterans Memorial next to Dobyns-Bennett High School.

The project has the support of BAE Systems, the Tri-Cities Military Affairs Council, the Hershel Woody Williams Congressional Medal of Honor Education Foundation and the city of Kingsport.

A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 21 at 11:30 a.m. at the proposed site, and is expected to be completed next fall.

“A Gold Star Families Memorial to honor those veterans and families who have dedicated their lives to our great country is an emotional and unwavering way we can represent what their sacrifice has given us,” Kingsport Mayor John Clark said of the project in a prepared release. “We will always remember and honor those who gave their lives for our freedom.”

A Gold Star Families Memorial is a monument honoring families who have lost loved ones serving the nation in the military and preserves the memory of those who gave their lives in service to the country and reminds all citizens about the ultimate cost of freedom.

The idea for the Kingsport project was created when Medal of Honor recipient and World War II hero Woody Williams spoke at the Kingsport Chamber and Leadership Kingsport Medal of Honor luncheon in September. Williams fought at the Battle of Iwo Jima.

“It’s amazing how this all happened and truly shows the Kingsport spirit at its finest,” said Miles Burdine, Kingsport Chamber president and CEO and a retired colonel with the United States Marine Corps. “When we hosted Woody Williams for a luncheon a few weeks ago, he mentioned there were not many monuments that honored our Gold Star families in the nation. He said he would love to see one in Kingsport. And when BAE Systems and the Tri-Cities Military Affairs Council heard him say this, they both immediately said we need one here and we’ll make it happen. And they have.”

The black granite monument will feature two sides. One side bears the verbiage: Gold Star Families Memorial Monument, a tribute to Gold Star mothers, fathers and relatives who have sacrificed a loved one for freedom. The other side tells a story through the four granite panels: Homeland, Family, Patriot and Sacrifice.

“It is a venerated status no one wants: Gold Star Family,” said Ernie Rumsby, Tri-Cities Military Affairs Council president. “It should be recognized that no one has sacrificed more for the nation than the families of the fallen. We have many families here who have sacrificed. We believe that it is fitting and proper to honor our Gold Star Families with the only Gold Star Family Memorial here in Northeast Tennessee on the grounds of the Kingsport Veterans Memorial in Kingsport.”

There are 12 Gold Star Families Memorial Monuments in the nation and more than 30 in a development phase, according to the chamber. The Gold Star Families Memorial Monument to be located in Kingsport is the second one in the state of Tennessee, with the other one being in Knoxville.

“We are beyond grateful to Woody Williams, BAE Systems, the Tri-Cities Military Affairs Council and the city of Kingsport for partnering together to build this memorial that honors those who gave everything and their families who have sacrificed so much for our freedom,” Burdine added. “Along with Woody and the city of Kingsport, both BAE Systems and T-MAC have pledged a considerable amount of money to the project and have moved this important endeavor along within days of saying they would make it happen. It’s a great story and a fitting testament to honor those families who have lost loved ones serving our nation.”

Total cost of the project is $50,000. To date, more than $27,500 has been raised thanks to the generous support of the sponsors.

To make a donation to the project, contact Vanessa Bennett, Kingsport Chamber Operations and Leadership Kingsport director, at (423) 392.8813 or