www.mybaycity.com October 1, 2017
Columns Article 11013

Dr. Tim Eckstein, master of ceremonies, welcomes visitors and guests to the Gold Star monument dedication Saturday.

GOLD STAR EVENT: Bay City Dedicates Michigan's First Monument

Medal of Honor Winner Woody Williams Urges National Gold Star Day Sept. 30

October 1, 2017
By: Dave Rogers

Bay City's historic Battery Park saw a crowd estimated at several hundred dedicate the state's first Gold Star monument, the first in the nation to use the words "Gold Star Families and Relatives."

Dr. Tim Eckstein, organizer of the project along with Bay Veterans Foundation president Keith Markstrom, presided at Saturday's dedication. A number of members of Gold Star families, who have lost a son or daughter in combat, were on hand for the dedication of the black granite $40,000 monument that sits proudly in the middle of the park.

Fundraising remains in progress to collect enough for permanent maintenance of the monument and the park, which features two replica Civil War cannon recalling the original guns from Fort Sumter that were placed in the park in 1907 after they were obtained by Congressman George A. Loud, of Oscoda, from a friendly colleague from South Carolina. That cannon, and four others from the Civil War that had been placed on the front lawn of City Hall, were donated to the war effort in 1942 and melted down for armaments.

The project was inspired by Hershel "Woody" Williams, whose Medal of Honor Foundation aims to have such monuments in every state across the nation. Bay City'a monument is number 25, Williams pointed out in remarks delivered on a windy, chilly Saturday, Sept. 30.

Williams, who was an honored guest at the Bay City event, turns age 94 Monday. He is the last surviving Medal of Honor winner of 27 men honored for actions in the Battle of Iwo Jima.

The citation that was read when he received the nation's highest military honor from Pres. Harry Truman noted that his "unyielding 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 in enabling his company to reach its objective."

Commenting that the nation has long honored Gold Star mothers but failed to recognize the fathers and families, he proposed that Sept. 30 be recognized as a national "Gold Star Families" holiday.

"We have Memorial Day, where we remember our veterans and pay tribute to them," he said, calling on Congress and state legislatures to embrace the campaign. "This day, the last Sunday of September should be a national holiday for America."We will not ever forget the sacrifice these loved ones have made so we can be free in America."

Williams, who stands 5 foot 6 inches, was initially rejected for being too short when he tried to enlist in the Marines. He had been serving in a Montana CCC camp when the war broke out and technically was in the Army. But he wanted to be a Marine instead.

Finally, after pointing out that Napoleon Bonaparte, the famed French military commander also was only 5 foot 6 inches tall, he was accepted by a Marine Reserve unit in Charleston, West Virginia.

As it turned out, Corporal Williams stood at least 10-feet tall in courage when he took out Japanese pillboxes, one by shoving his flamethrower into the barrel of an enemy gun as he stood atop a heavily fortified pillbox at Iwo Jima.

Gold Star Families are defined as a person who has lost a loved one during military service, said Mr. Markstrom at the groundbreaking for the Gold Star monument April 27.

"This Monument is a reflection of the support we have to those families who have made 'the ultimate sacrifice' for our freedom. It is our goal to ensure those families know their loved ones will never be forgotten and will have a dedicated place to honor their memory and bravery."

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