The Veterans Memorial Park Foundation of Pensacola at 11 a.m. on Veteran’s Day will dedicate the newly installed Gold Star Families Memorial Monument, which was erected at the park on Saturday, October 31. The public is invited to attend.
“Our group of local Gold Star Family members and other supporters are proud to be part of this initiative to recognize the thousands of families across the nation who bear the burden of the loss of a loved one as a result of their military service to our country,” said Tim Spears, committee member and Gold Star Dad.
Pensacola’s monument represents the 75thedition of the Hershel “Woody” Williams Medal of Honor Foundation’s national Gold Star Families Memorial project. Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Hershel “Woody” Williams, whose extraordinary valor during the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945 is legendary, founded the Gold Star Families Memorial project as part of the living legacy of America’s fading “greatest generation.”
Williams, age 97, is one of only two living recipients of the Medal of Honor from WWII. He will travel to Pensacola to be a featured speaker at the ceremonies and greet local Gold Star families as the monument is dedicated.
Additionally, Captain Allen Colby Brady, who was a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam after he was shot down on January 19, 1967 until his release on March 4, 1973 and was subsequently awarded the Silver Star, has also been invited to the ceremony. He attended Saturday’s installation.
Captain Allen Brady at Saturday’s monument installation (photos courtesy Jill Hubbs)
“Seeing (Capt. Brady) run his fingers over the piece of black granite with the POW/MIA flag gave me goosebumps and brought tears to my eyes,” said organizer Jill Hubbs, a Gold Star daughter whose Dad is a Navy pilot still missing in Vietnam.
Hubbs also said that as the construction crew was finishing, an older gentleman came over to look and pointed to the POW/MIA flag etched into the granite. “I’m happy to see this is a part of this monument,” he said. Turns out he is a 91-year-old former A-6 Navy pilot who shot down over Vietnam who spent six years as a prisoner of war in the Hanoi Hilton.
“This memorial represents the cost of freedom and honors the families who are left behind – and for me, an unsung hero – my mother,” said Hubbs, pointing out that on March 17, 1968, her mom became a Gold Star wife. “She was left behind to carry on for the months, years and decades after my father was lost in Vietnam. Now, looking back as an adult, I have the greatest admiration for my mother. I don’t know how she coped with what she was faced with – especially with the uncertainty of my dad being missing in action. But she did cope, raising my sister and I as she knew my father would want us to be raised and continuing to instill patriotism and love of our country in us. This monument honors her sacrifices and it is for her.”
Hubbs also said the monument is for her grandmother, Annie Holm, whose oldest son, John, a 1st Lieutenant in the Army, was killed in Okinawa during WWII when he led his platoon on a mission. He was buried in Okinawa and his remains were finally returned three years after the end of the war. “It honors her love, her tears, her sacrifice,” she said.
Veteran’s Memorial Park is located at 200 S 10th Avenue in downtown Pensacola. It’s open from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. daily.