Building a monument for Gold Star families


The day after Indiana paused to remember its fallen heroes, work got underway to create a monument to our often forgotten war heroes: fathers and mothers whose sons and daughters didn't come home.

During a Memorial Day service, Gold Star families were asked to stand. Janice and Don Schauwecker rose from their front row seats to the applause of everyone there. Their son, Staff Sergeant Richard Blakley, an Indiana Army National Guard medic, was killed in Iraq ten years ago. Except for days like this, their sacrifices are easily overlooked. So the couple is working to build a memorial to all of the city's Gold Star families.

"It will be a place to come and help honor and to know they are not forgotten, to know we do remember," Janice said.

The polished granite monument with images of home and family surround a silhouette of a soldier who didn't come home.

It was the idea of a soldier who did come home. In World War II, Hershel "Woody" Williams received the Medal of Honor for his selfless courage in the Battle of Iwo Jima. Williams' Medal of Honor Foundation is helping communities build their own memorials.

"The monument pays tribute and honors the families of those who sacrificed a love one in our armed forces and our freedom," he explains in a foundation video.

"People are excited by this. They want to see something for the families," said Jill Fewell, who is helping organize the project in Indianapolis.

With a son serving in the Navy, Fewell is a Blue Star mother.

"The most challenging part is finding the most favorable location and getting those who own the property," she explained.

Organizers have a few favorite downtown spots. They want a place with security, lighting and nearby parking to make the memorial safe for families to visit.

"It will be a place where children bring their children through," Don Schauwecker said. "When the kids ask, 'What's that, Mom and Dad?' They can tell them, 'That's where we honor our heroes'."

Ten cities, including Lafayette, Indiana, have already built monuments. Twenty-five other cities are working on them. A foundation official says costs range from $50,000 to $70,000. The planning, fundraising and construction of Indianapolis' monument to Gold Star families would likely take more than a year to complete.