By Nicole Zappone
BERLIN – Area residents, government officials and Gold Star families gathered at Veterans Memorial Park over the weekend for the dedication of the Connecticut Gold Star Families Memorial Monument.
The monument honors military families and the legacy of their loved ones who died while serving in the armed forces. Work on it started in May 2021.
One side of the black granite monument bears the words, “Gold Star Families Memorial Monument, a tribute to Gold Star Families and Relatives who sacrificed Loved Ones for our Freedom.” The other features four panels: Homeland, Family, Patriot, and Sacrifice.
At the center of this tribute is a cut out, which represents lost loved ones.
Leslie Manselle, a Gold Star sister, sang the national anthem during the Saturday ceremony, which drew about 400 people.
Several speakers then addressed the crowd. Delivering remarks was Berlin Mayor Mark Kaczynski, Gold Star mother Helen Keiser-Pedersen, Connecticut Veterans Commission member Thomas Saadi and Medal of Honor recipient Paul “Buddy” Bucha.
WTNH-TV anchor Dennis House served as the master of ceremonies.
“I think it was an amazing event,” said House. “I had the great honor of meeting Helen Keiser-Pedersen a few years back, and it was life-changing.
“To hear her and Bob’s story about losing their son, was heart-wrenching, yet inspiring, as they are beautiful people.”
With the Gold Star monument, Berlin becomes part of a nationwide project led by Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Marine from World War II to wear the Medal of Honor.
Initially, the goal of The Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation was to establish a Gold Star Families Memorial Monument in William’s home state of West Virginia.
According to the foundation’s website, once that monument was complete, a new mission became clear: to establish these monuments in as many communities as possible in all 50 states. Since 2013, the foundation has established 99 Gold Star monuments across the United States and many more are underway.
The monument in Berlin is the first one in Connecticut.
The ceremony also included a seven-man rifle squad from the Marine Corps League Hardware City Detachment. U.S. military songs were played by a saxophone quartet from Berlin High School. Two Berlin High School trumpeters performed Taps.