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From left, Madison First Selectman Tom Banisch, Gold Star Mother Sharon Eaton, Gold Star Parents Helen and Bob Keiser, and State Representative Noreen Kokoruda (R-101) stand behind the new Gold Star Family Memorial. (Photo by Zoe Roos/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
The new Gold Star Family Memorial, located on the Madison Town Green, honors those mothers and families who have lost a child in service to this country. (Photo by Zoe Roos/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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It’s said there is no greater pain than losing a child. On Sept. 24, members of the Madison and greater shoreline community gathered on the Madison Town Green to unveil and dedicate the Gold Star Family Memorial, honoring those members of the military who have lost their lives in service to their county and their family members who have borne the pain of their loss.
Military personnel, police, religious leaders, town officials, members of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and American Legion Post, and Gold Star families came together on the Green for the ceremony. VFW Post 2096 Commander Larry Brundrett opened the ceremony and explained the significance of the gold star. Brundrett said while the blue star indicates a member of the military is in service away from home, the gold star represents “that person who made the ultimate sacrifice during their service.”
The memorial is for all Gold Star families. Sharon Eaton of Guilford attended the ceremony. Her son, Army Staff Sgt. Richard S. Eaton, Jr., died on Aug. 12, 2003 in Ar Ramadi, Iraq from heat-related injuries after an extensive firefight. Eaton said she was grateful to see a memorial like this on the shoreline.
“Thank you from the bottom of my heart,” she said.
Brundrett said Bob and Helen Keiser brought the idea for the memorial to town. Their son, U.S. Army Captain Andrew Pedersen-Keel, was mortally wounded on the morning of March 11, 2013, when a 20 year-old Afghan jumped into the back of an Afghan police pickup truck and killed the Special Forces team of which Keel was the leader.
Noting that Pedersen-Keel is the only Madison VFW member killed in action, “he is a special person in our ranks and a special person in this town,” Brundrett said.
National Gold Star Mother’s Day, also known as National Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day, is observed annually on the last Sunday in September. American Legion Post 79 Commander Rich Nichols said Americans have always risen to the task of protecting freedom and liberty, leaving homes and families, and sometimes not returning.
“These families, and most specifically the mothers, are sometimes left to pay the very highest cost, the loss of a child,” he said, “in most cases, an exceptional child, one who has chosen and trained to defend us. Their grief stretches our comprehension, but our pride and our gratitude is all we can offer in consolation. This Gold Star Monument rests at the intersection of pride and grief.”
At the ceremony, First Selectman Tom Banisch spoke about the history of the Gold Star and the sacrifice it represents, and thanked all who helped make the monument a reality including Swan Funeral Home in Madison, which donated the monument as part of its 100th anniversary in Madison.
“Today the Madison community commemorates this memorial to Gold Star Families here and across the country and we thank Bob and Helen Keiser for their sacrifice…through their efforts the idea of a Gold Star Memorial for Madison has come to fruition,” Banisch said.
Helen Keiser thanked everyone for attending and spoke about how her son loved coming home to Madison.
“We would like the emphasis on Sept. 24 to be on the town of Madison and its commitment to remember Gold Star Mothers and Families,” she said in a statement. “We are the face that represents thousands of families.”
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