BERLIN — On Memorial Day, the nation will pause to remember the military men and women who gave their lives for their country.
In Berlin, there is an effort to honor the families they left behind.
The community recently broke ground on a monument to Gold Star families, those whose relatives have died while in service to the U.S. military. The monument is scheduled to be completed and dedicated in April 2022 at Berlin Veterans Memorial Park.
“Today we are presented with a perfect opportunity to build this memorial to honor our veterans who have honored us by making the ultimate sacrifice to their country,” said Mayor Mark Kaczynski at the ground breaking ceremony on May 22. “We will not only remember them, but we will honor and recognize the sacrifice of their families and loved ones.”
The monument is a part of a nationwide project led by 97-year-old Hershel “Woody” Williams — the last surviving Marine from World War II to wear the Medal of Honor.
Since 2013, his foundation has established 76 monuments to Gold Star families across the United States. The monument in Berlin Veterans Memorial Park will be the first in the state.
Nearly a dozen Gold Star families attended the groundbreaking ceremony, including Helen Keiser-Pedersen, president of Connecticut’s chapter of Gold Star Mothers. Her son, U.S. Army Capt. Andrew Pedersen-Keel, was killed in battle in Afghanistan in 2013, just before he turned 29.
“Our struggle to understand what has happened to our lives and why, is a daily effort,” said Keiser-Pedersen. “Goldstar families will always need your love, we will always need your hug, we will always need your hand to hold, and we will always need your respect.”
The monument will be two-sided and made of black granite. The front side will honor Gold Star families with the statement, “A Tribute to Gold Star Families and Relatives Who Sacrificed a Loved One for Our Freedom.”
The other side will show the representative images for each pillar of the Williams Foundation — homeland, family, patriot, and sacrifice. In the center is a silhouette of a saluting service member.
The monument will be surrounded by four benches.
Gary Roy, the Connecticut Gold Star Families Monument Committee co-chair, said the total cost of the monument will be about $60,000. So far, the committee has raised about half and continues to collect donations in hopes of completing the monument on time.
“As we’ve learned a lot along our way, we met a lot of Gold Star families and we heard their stories, and it touched us even more to get this completed so they have this monument that they deserve to remember their loved ones that they have lost,” said Roy.
If you’d like to help the Berlin memorial effort, you can make a donation through the Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation at woodywilliams.org/monuments/ct-monument.html. Donations must be designated for the Berlin memorial.