In 2010, the Hershel “Woody” Williams Congressional Medal of Honor Education Foundation was founded, with its goal being to work with communities across the country in establishing Gold Star Family memorials.
During his visit to Kingsport in early 2017, then 93-year-old Williams challenged the community to fund and build such a memorial.
A group of Kingsport community members and leaders wanted to have one in our area to honor our Gold Star Families. The group members were Ernie Rumsby (Tri Cities Military Affairs Council), Christopher Finley (BAE Systems), John Davison (Raymond James & Associates), Don Grindstaff (U.S. Army Survivor Outreach Services Program), Sam Jones (Tri Cities Military Affairs Council), Chris McCartt (City of Kingsport), Allison Rogers (BAE Systems), Brenda Shelton (Gold Star Mother), Miles Burdine (Kingsport Chamber) and Vanessa Bennett (Kingsport Chamber).
In the fall of 2017, the Kingsport Gold Star Families Memorial was built and unveiled. This monument honors, recognizes and serves Gold Star Families and the legacy of their loved ones who have paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the Armed Forces of the United States of America.
This stunning black granite monument features two sides. One side bears the words: Gold Star Families Memorial Monument, a tribute to Gold Star Mothers, Fathers, and Relatives who have sacrificed a Loved One for our Freedom.
The other side tells a story through the four granite panels: Homeland, Volunteer, Sacrifice, and Service. The scenes on each panel are a reflection of each community’s Gold Star Families and their fallen Heroes. At the center of this tribute is the most distinct feature of the monument, the cut out which represents the Loved One who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the name of Freedom.
For the backside of the monument, the story behind the panels is as follows.
This monument is in tribute to and in honor of the families in Tennessee who lost one or more loved ones while they were fighting to protect our freedoms in the Armed Forces of the United States of America.
The first panel depicts our beautiful Bays Mountain and represents our HOME here in the peaceful rolling hills of Northeast Tennessee.
The second panel invokes our tradition of Christian culture and VOLUNTEER spirit. We are the Tennessee Volunteers and proudly serve in all branches of the Armed Services.
The third panel is a tribute on behalf of a grateful nation to our Gold Star Families who continue to grieve the loss of loved ones who died to preserve our rights, liberties and the American flag under which they so valiantly served. We will always remember the SACRIFICE of our fallen heroes and all they have made possible for us.
The silhouette of the service member represents all the fallen gave unto us in the name of peace and freedom for their family, friends and neighbors while making the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
The fourth and final panel serves as a reminder that the lives we live and love are made possible only through the devotion, courage and continued SERVICE of our brave men and women in the Armed Forces.
Our gratitude is writ in this stone.
The third panel on the monument is of our own Brenda Shelton at her son, Ben’s, gravesite taken on July 4 of this year by Mickey Baker. This is an example of the ultimate sacrifice.
We take great pride in our “story” behind these panels. They show our home, they show our gratitude to the Gold Star Families and they show what sacrifice has been given for our freedom.
The Kingsport Chamber Foundation raised more than $80,000 from private citizens and businesses in the city to fund this project.
Loved beyond words. Missed beyond measure.