Members of deceased military members prepare to wield gold shovels in breaking ground for the Gold Star Monument in Battery Park.
(Photo by Mike Jamrog).
GOLD STAR FAMILIES: Ground Broken for New Memorial Monument in Battery Park
Bay City to Lead Michigan in Nationwide Effort Honoring Military Heroes
Fundraising for Michigan's first Gold Star Families Memorial Monument -- to be situated in Battery Park -- is in progress in Bay City.
The Bay Veterans Foundation is collaborating with Hershel "Woody" Williams, 93, the last surviving Medal of Honor winner from the Battle of Iwo Jima, in planning for the monument.
"Battery Park is a significant site for Bay City since the downtown four-quadrant park at Center and Jefferson not only greeted returning heroes from the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, and World War I, it was the headquarters of recruitment of soldiers in 1917 and war bond sales in 1918," said BVF President Keith Markstrom.
Over the last few years, the BVF led a $115,000 fundraising drive and directed restoration of Battery Park, including replacement of Civil War cannon that had been scrapped in 1942 and donated to the war effort.
The replica cannon, contributed by Bay Cast, Inc., stand as mute testimonials to 110 years of community focus on the park as a patriotic gathering place.
Interested Bay area community members may contribute to the new monument through http://www.gofundme.com/z33a6-gold-star-family-monument
Future plans are to restore and locate nearby a rail car representative of the days when troop trains carried recruits from Bay City for training and service on distant battlefields.
Mike Jamrog, a veteran of service in Viet Nam, and first vice president of the Bay Veterans Foundation contributes the following report that will be posted on the BVF website:
"On Saturday, April 29, 2017, Gold Star families, local dignitaries, community leaders, and military service members joined the Michigan Gold Star Families Memorial Monument Committee at Battery Park in downtown Bay City to break ground for a new memorial monument dedicated to all Gold Star families.
"Gold Star families are the families of a loved one who gave their life to protect our freedom and to give freedom to many who have never experienced it. Those Gold Star families have rarely been given the recognition and honor they deserve for their sacrifices and suffering in keeping America free.
"America has numerous memorials and monuments which pay tribute to those who have faithfully served in our Armed Forces since becoming a Nation. Many honor the patriots who have given their lives for our freedom.
"But America has citizens in every community and hamlet who are family members of someone who has made the ultimate sacrifice while in the service of their country. The Gold Star Families Memorial Monument will honor those families who have given more than most of us, illustrating that these families suffer and grieve dearly when a relative is lost while in the service of our country. Without their sacrifices, freedom could not and would not have been preserved.
"Plans call for a statewide fund-raising campaign to raise the estimated $75,000-$80,000 required for site preparation, black granite monument, and to establish a maintenance fund.
"This memorial monument is being developed in cooperation between The Hershel "Woody" Williams Medal of Honor Foundation and the Bay Veterans Foundation. Dedication is planned for September 30, 2017."
As World War II began, Hershel "Woody" Williams was a cab driver in Quiet Dell, West Virginia, delivering Western Union telegrams informing the Gold Star families of the death of their loved one.
Woody says that those experiences gave him a "greater appreciation for life and an understanding of a difference in death in the normal world as expected in life, and those lost serving in the military for their country."
When Pearl Harbor was attacked, he was working in Montana as a Civilian Conservation Corps enrollee. After being turned away once from the U.S. military for being too short, he successfully enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in Charleston, West Virginia, on May 26, 1943.
Gold Star wife Melissa Alex (Left) and Keith Markstrom, BVF president, at ground-breaking.
(Photo by Mike Jamrog)
Photo by Mike Jamrog
His Medal of Honor citation for intrepid action on Iwo Jima reads, in part: "Cpl. Williams daringly went forward alone to attempt the reduction of devastating machine gun fire from the unyielding positions. His determination and extraordinary heroism in the face of ruthless enemy resistance were directly instrumental in neutralizing one of the most fanatically defended Japanese strong points encountered by his regiment and aided vitally in enabling his company to reach its objective. Cpl. Williams' aggressive fighting spirit and valiant devotion to duty throughout this fiercely contested action sustain and enhance the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service."
On June 12, 1907, Congressman George Loud of Oscoda addressed the members of the Grand Army of the Republic, the Civil War veterans association, as he presided over ceremonies marking placement of four massive Civil War cannon he had obtained from the government in Battery Park.
The Bay City Times headlined:
"AT BATTERY PARK; HISTORIC GUNS DEDICATED BY CONGRESSMAN LOUD; IN STIRRING SPEECH TO VETERANS WHO WERE THE BLUE."
A reporter on hand took down his every word and reported Loud's remarks:
"Two of these historic pieces were once a part of the broadside battery of Admiral Farragut's flagship, the Hartford," intoned the Congressman at the 1907 ceremonies. "There was a time in which they spoke in loud and determined voice that we should have a free and united country.
"Their voices rang out again and again at Port Hudson, at Mobile and New Orleans, and victory came each time at their call.
"These ponderous mortars, once in Fort Sumter in those fierce days of the Civil War, have now come hundreds of miles to seek a final resting place here in Bay City."
Loud concluded, reflecting appropriate patriotism: "May we not hope that in viewing them, the younger and rising generations may realize the scenes that these great mortars have passed through and be ever ready as they come in manhood to do their part when their country calls them and ever ready to defend their country and our beautiful flag."
Turning to the blue-clad veterans of the Civil War, more than 500 of whom had settled in the booming lumber town of Bay City after the war, Congressman Loud said: "You are the men who marched with Sherman from Atlanta to the sea and you are the men who at last, at the close of the war, marched in that Grand Review, a part of that grand army of 189,109 veterans.
"I consider it one of the greatest honors of my life to be asked to address you, soldiers of the Grand Army of the Republic, today, and I thank you for it."
For four years Loud was a colonel on the staff of Michigan Governor Hazen S. Pingree. He was paymaster on the U.S. revenue cutter "McCulloch" when it participated in the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War. He was killed in an auto accident at Myrtle Point, Michigan, in 1925 and is buried in AuSable Cemetery, Oscoda.
Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
(Contact Dave Via Email at email@example.com)
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