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Local Veterans Commission presents city with a check

Funds raised will go towards the Gold Star Memorial

Washington County Veterans Service Commissioner Jared Smith investigates loose assembly of a stone bench at Gold Star Park with Marietta Mayor Josh Schlicher on Tuesday.

The rumble of motorcycles is still felt more than a week after the Freedom Ride passed through Marietta, Beverly, Dexter City and Lowell with veterans fundraising on the open road.

Tuesday, commissioners of the Washington County Veterans Service Commission joined VSC Officer Tom Kukulka and members of the Sgt. Bob O’Malley detachment of the Marine Corps League to present the fruit of that ride to Marietta Mayor Josh Schlicher, with the challenge to finish what was started on Harmar Hill under the administration of former Mayor Joe Matthews.

With an enlarged check in hand, the group both praised recent mulch and landscaping work of city crews and scouts, while advocating for the completion of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources-funded walking trail surrounding the park from the parking lot around the playground and new pavilion, behind tennis courts on the hill above and down the hillside nearest Lancaster Street back to the lot.

“We’re hoping for this year and if not by spring of next,” Schlicher answered when questioned by the veterans of when the path would be completed by the city with grant dollars.

Meanwhile, a stone bench previously believed to have been vandalized at the monument honoring Gold Star Families and the sacrifice and loss of their loved one in service of their country, was investigated by Commissioner Jared Smith and the mayor hands-on Tuesday.

Photos by Janelle Patterson Washington County Veterans Service Commissioners Dave Fitzgerald, left, and Larry Proctor depart the Gold Star Park in Marietta Tuesday on motorcycles they rode during the Freedom Ride in support of the park this month.

This review showed deterioration in an epoxy between the backrests of some of the benches allowing the stone to come apart.

The meaning behind the star

The park was dedicated and renamed Gold Star Park in 2018 (formerly called Lookout Park in the years leading up to groundbreaking in 2017) following the work of the Marine Corps League and other veterans including Bernie Lyons of Parkersburg, advocating for the grounds between the former community building and the wooded city lands at the top of the hill to honor the sacrifice of families who lost a service member in the line of duty.

“It’s the only monument like this in the United States placed on a star,” said Dale Ferrell, a retired marine as he pointed to the concrete work leading all who enter the grove to the monument at its center.

The U.S. Department of Defense also issues Gold Star lapel pins to immediate family members of a fallen service member of the military. These pins are worn by spouses, parents, and children of service members killed in the line of duty and contain a gold star on a purple circular background.

Washington County Veterans Service commissioners (left to right) Danny Hills, Larry Proctor, Regis Kern, Dave Fitzgerald, and members of the Marine Corps League (left to right in red) Dale Ferrell, Larry Britton and Irene Cain, join VSC Officer Tom Kukulka in presenting Marietta Mayor Josh Schlicher with a check for $4,761.59 in donations from this month’s Freedom Ride to support the upkeep and improvements at Gold Star Park on Tuesday.

That symbolism follows the tradition begun in World War I of covering a blue star signifying active service of an immediate family member in conflict with the gold acknowledging their death.

“This grove of trees, what better, more serene place to have this honored,” reflected fellow retired Marine Larry Britton, before the remaining veterans cleared out of the park, leaving in their wake two small children and their mother to sit in solemn silence at the memorial Tuesday.

Janelle Patterson may be reached at jpatterson@mariettatimes.com.

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