The monument is set. Now, it’s time for the dedication.
Installation is completed on a Gold Star Families Memorial Monument, a project years in the making to help comfort families who have lost members during military service while also explaining to those who don’t know exactly what a Gold Star Family is. The monument will be dedicated with a ribbon cutting at 11 a.m. Wednesday at its location on the southeast side of Lake Helen in Elmer Thomas Park. The ceremony is open to the public.
The multi-paneled black granite monument, 6-8 feet tall and 15 feet long, is comprised of panels citing Homeland, Family, Patriot and Sacrifice, as do all Gold Star Family monuments. But, each monument also is designed to be unique to a community, said Brenda Spencer-Ragland, one of the core group of organizers who have been working on the monument project since 2021. Lawton’s monument will feature touches unique to the community, including a buffalo, the Oklahoma and American flags, and a scissor-tailed flycatcher. And, it’s most stunning feature — a cutout of a saluting military member standing between the Patriot and Sacrifice panels — will be backlit by the waters of Lake Helen.
At its core, the monument is a tribute to Gold Star Families, those whose loved ones were members of the U.S. military until they died in service to their country. That is why organizers were deliberate in their selection of the site along Lake Helen’s quiet shoreline.
“A lot of families don’t want to talk about it,” said committee member Vicky Flores, adding the monument gives families a place to sit quietly and think about the one they lost.
It’s something she knows from personal experience: her son Wilfred “Willie” Flores Jr. was 20 years old when he died in 2007 found wounds sustained during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
But, organizing committee member Frank Thibodeau said education is an equally important part of the monument.
“A lot of people don’t know what it is,” he said, of a Gold Star Family designation