By Mayor Tommy Battle
It’s a club no one ever wants to join, but when they do, they’re a member for life.
We’re talking about the Gold Star Family, a special group for those who have lost a spouse or family member while they were serving our great nation.
For decades, many survivors have had nowhere to turn following the loss of these fallen heroes.
Photo of the mayor by Jeff White
Julie Kink, a member of the local Gold Star Families Memorial Monument Committee, remembers the silence and lack of support when her brother, Warrant Officer David R. Kink, was killed in action in Vietnam at the age of 19.
“I’m a Vietnam Gold Star sister, and then, you just didn’t talk about it,” said Kink, who was only 8 when her brother died. “There was very little support for families who had lost someone in the service.”
That’s changing now thanks to people like Kink and the newly installed Alabama Gold Star Families Memorial Monument in Huntsville.
Situated at the Huntsville-Madison County Veterans Memorial on 200 Monroe St. N.W., the monument is located along the Patriots Walkway to honor not only our fallen service members, but the loved ones they left behind.
It’s a place to reflect, pray, remember and celebrate their lives 365 days a year, seven days a week.
“They had a tremendous impact on our families,” Kink said. “And yes, there’s a hole there for all of us and an empty place at the table … but, at the same time, they were here and they did make a mark.”
Marshall Eubanks, a retired colonel and president of the North Alabama Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association, first learned about the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument while reading an article in American Legion magazine.
Realizing Alabama did not have one of these monuments, which are placed in communities across the U.S., Eubanks began working with Kink and others to bring one to Huntsville.
“What we’re really trying to do is get more people to remember their lost loved ones and to realize that in our communities and neighborhoods, there may be a Gold Star family member you don’t know anything about,” said Eubanks, who lost his father in Vietnam when he was a freshman at the University of Southern Mississippi. “It’s about awareness and it’s about remembering.”
The stunning black granite monument has two sides, one of which tells a story through four panels focused on Homeland, Family, Patriot, and Sacrifice. Designed by the Hershel “Woody” Williams Medal of Honor Foundation, the monument is funded by donations.
Veterans are the backbone of our community. They’ve served our country, often at great peril, and they continue to serve.
As mayor of Huntsville, I’m proud to support the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument and the families who have sacrificed so much for our freedom.
For more details or to donate to the cause, visit www.hmcvm.org.