North Canton will break ground on a Gold Star Families Memorial Monument this spring.
NORTH CANTON The city is building a monument to honor those who've lost the most.
North Canton will break ground on a Gold Star Families Memorial Monument this spring. It will be the first such monument in Stark County and one of a handful across the state.
The monuments honor the loved ones of those who died serving in the military.
Not just parents, children and spouses but "all family members. The whole family, of course, suffers when you lose a family member," said Dr. Timothy P. Novelli, founder of The Patriot Project and on the board of the North Canton monument project.
"The worst things is to be forgotten. ... If we don't honor and remember — and truly honor and remember — their sacrifice, it makes the wound even deeper," Novelli said.
"They gave up the most precious thing in their life," he added. "We want them to know how much we honor their sacrifice. ... We're forever in their debt."
The monument is a program of the Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation. Williams, 94, a Marine veteran, was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1945 for acts of bravery during the battle of Iwo Jima. He's the sole surviving Medal of Honor recipient to have served in the Marines during World War II.
Williams established his foundation in 2012 with a goal to erect a monument in every state. So far, 39 states have either built a monument or are in the process of building one; the foundation has dedicated 31 monuments and has 51 in the works.
North Canton will be the first Stark County community to have a monument. Medina, Fairfield and Grove City have dedicated monuments and plans are underway to construct monuments in Cleveland, Dayton and Marietta.
The monument will be dedicated July 7 in a ceremony attended by Williams.
Williams is on the board of the Patriot Project. He and Novelli discussed bringing a monument to North Canton several times, but the project really took off in November after the organization's annual Patriot's Ball, Novelli said.
Novelli brought up the monument to city leaders, who jumped on board.
Monday, City Council approved an agreement with the foundation for the monument. The city is responsible for finding an appropriate site, hiring an architect or designer, taking care of landscaping and providing electricity. The foundation is responsible for the rest, including the cost of the monument and a $7,500 donation to a city fund for its upkeep.
Some requirements, such as finding an architect, are already in place. The city already has started work on the project and expects to break ground this spring, said Director of Administration Patrick DeOrio, who's on the project board.
People and companies have already offered to lend services or materials to the project, he said.
The monument sets the city apart. It's "unlike any others," DeOrio said. "To have that, it makes us a special place."
At Monday's council meeting, Medal of Honor recipient Donald "Doc" Ballard thanked the city.
The monument provides community service, reflection and healing, he said. "It's a tremendous beacon of light for those families. They have renewed conviction. They know the communities care about them."
"It has nothing to do with the brick and mortar, it's symbolic of the healing process," he added.
The monument will be in Price Park near the existing Blue Star Monument. The area surrounding it will be outfitted with flagpoles, benches and other features.
"It should be really beautiful," Novelli said.
The project is seeking donors to purchase the benches, which will have plaques identifying the donor or the person it honors, he said.
All of the monuments have the same basic design — four tall, sloping black granite slabs with a saluting solider cast in relief near the center.
The monument will be positioned so the solider casts a shadow at certain times of the day, DeOrio said.
The front of the monument announces it is "a tribute to Gold Star mothers, fathers and relatives who sacrificed a loved one for our freedom."
On the back of the monument, each panel will display a different virtue: Patriot, Sacrifice, Family, Homeland.
• Patriot will honor Williams with an image of the iconic flag raising over Iwo Jima.
• Sacrifice will have an image of a crying eagle behind a soldier's gun, boots and helmet.
• Family will display an image of a solider holding his young daughter. The panel shows the emotional moment when a loved one leaves for service or returns home, Novelli said. "We live the life we live because someone else is paying that price for us and the families are paying that price also."
• Homeland will pay tribute to North Canton and Hoover Co. during wartime, DeOrio said. It will include a photo provided by the North Canton Heritage Society of Operation Pied Piper, a Hoover program that brought 84 children from England to the U.S. to escape bombing during World War II.
"There's a nice local tie to our community and the efforts we played. There's some personalization to this monument," he said.
The project is accepting donations. To contribute, see the monument website at hwwmohf.org/canton-oh.html.