Gold star

Jared Smith, at podium, addresses more than 100 people at the groundbreaking for the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument on July 6, 2019. He is joined by Hershel "Woody" Williams (far right) and Richland County Commissioner Tony Vero and Veterans Service Director Ken Estep.

MANSFIELD -- A solider is not dead until they are forgotten. That's the old axiom describing those in uniform.

Nearly 100 members of the community -- many with a military background -- attended Saturday's groundbreaking of the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument in front of the Richland County Courthouse. 

The memorial will stand as a reminder to the community of the heroic, albeit saddening, sacrifice local families have made for the United States of America, Richland County Commissioner Tony Vero said.

It's predicted target of completion is mid-November.

"It's a stark reminder that freedom isn't free," Vero said while addressing the crowd inside the lobby of the first floor of the courthouse. "The purpose of a gold star monument is to honor Gold Star Families, preserve the memory of the fallen."

The Gold Star, an honor all hope to avoid, is given to families of soldiers who do not return home, said Jared Smith, Chairmen of the Mansfield, Ohio Gold State Families Memorial Monument.

Smith acted as the Master of Ceremonies during the groundbreaking.

"We are here today to ensure their loss is never in vain," Smith said. "A soldier is never dead until he is forgotten, and it's our responsibility to show our admiration to families of Gold Star family members."

The keynote speaker at the groundbreaking was CWO4 Hershel "Woody" Williams, of the United State Marine Corp. He is the only living Iwo Jima Medal of Honor Recipient.

During his speech, Williams offered the history of the Gold Star and said it has been his mission to keep the tradition going.

Monuments to Gold Star Families have been put up in 42 states, Williams said. There are plans in place to add 79 more.

In Ohio, there are seven standing memorials with plans for two more, including the Richland County structure.

"Ohio can be very proud of their achievements to this point and they know they are not done," the 95-year-old Marine said.

Vero said he was pleased by the size of the crowd.

"It means to me that Richland County supports its veterans, it supports those who have paid the ultimate price serving their country," he said.

James Hordiniski Jr., who served in the Army during the Vietnam war from 1967 to 1969, said the dedication was special because it showed respect to those who may feel neglected.

"It's a special feeling to those who have suffered and they are more than deserving," he said.

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Staff Reporter

Noah Jones is host to The Open Mic Podcast -- available on Apple Podcasts! He is the crime, education and music reporter for Richland Source. He is a native of St. Louis, Missouri and a giant Cardinals fan.