Breaking ground

Hershel Woodrow "Woody" Williams is flanked by Gov. Jim Justice and four Gold Star mothers and Gold Star Marines during a groundbreaking ceremony at the State Capitol Complex earlier this year. 

PRINCETON — A committee raising the money needed to establish a memorial to Mercer County veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and their families came Tuesday to the Mercer County Commission.

Bill and Donna Blankenship, members of the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument committee, came before a special county commission meeting to see about funding for a memorial honoring local veterans.

Bill Blankenship said 568 Mercer County residents “laid down their lives for us,” and that the monument would be “to preserve the memory of the fallen and stand as a reminder that freedom is not free.”

One side of the black granite monument would be a tribute to Gold Star families who lost loved ones serving their country, and the other would represent the veterans, he said.

Approximately $45,000 is needed to pay for the monument itself, County Commissioner Bill Archer said later. Additional funds could be needed later for the site preparation and other costs.

Archer, who is a member of the Gold Star committee, recused himself from Tuesday’s meeting and left the commission’s courtroom until the presentation was completed.

One possible monument location was the Memorial Building near the Mercer County Courthouse, but there have been doubts about whether there was enough room there for it.

“We wouldn’t object to it being on the courthouse grounds,” Blankenship said.

A majority of the monument’s names would be of World War II veterans who still have family in the area. Blankenship said his wife’s father served during the Battle of the Bulge in Europe.

“We still have a lot of veterans,” he said. “There’s a big chapter of Vietnam veterans in Princeton and one in Bluefield.”

County Commission President Gene Buckner and Commissioner Greg Puckett asked Blankenship to submit a request to the county commission for funding, and the commissioners would see what the county could contribute.

“We’ll do what we can to move this forward,” Buckner stated.

Plans to put a Gold Star Memorial Monument in Mercer County started last July when Archer met Hershel “Woody” Williams, a World War II veteran and a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor. Williams received the medal in recognition of his actions during the 1944 Battle of Iwo Jima. Archer spoke to Williams when the veteran addressed the 2019 Marine Corps League Mideast Division Conference near Princeton.

The Gold Star Family Memorial Monument, Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation is a 502C3 nonprofit organization.

To learn more about donating to the memorial project, Archer can be contacted at 304-921-0029 or barcher_37@hotmail.com.

Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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