Our connection to veterans in Thurston County is strong. Many of our residents are serving or have served in the United States military. Recognizing this, veteran-related causes have become a personal mission for many, including Mike Whitlatch who has the mission of bringing a Gold Star Families Memorial Monument to the city of Lacey.
“I am an advocate for Thurston County Veterans Services,” explains Whitlatch, who is a Gold Star Families Memorial Monument volunteer. “The monument is really a tribute to all that military members that have fallen in the line of duty. It’s important to honor not only the people that have served, but also their families, which is exactly what this monument will do.”
The Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation started the Gold Star Families Memorial Monuments (GSFMM) throughout the United States to honor those who have served. Its purpose is not only to honor those fallen soldiers, but to remind residents that freedom in our country isn’t free. Each side of the monument tells a story to visitors about those men and women who have served with the themes of Homeland, Family, Patriot and Sacrifice. Families will have the opportunity to praise and remember their loved ones in the military at this granite monument.
“I found out about the GSFMM through the American Legion,” explains local veteran and Lacey City Council Member, Michael Steadman. “They posted an event with Medal of Honor recipient Hershel “Woody” Williams. It’s his life’s mission to have 50 of these monuments built to honor his friends who never made it home. I’ve always been passionate about recognizing our military service members no matter the job and I wanted to bring Williams’ dream to our city.”
Steadman comes from a background of military service and focuses on ways to pay it forward to his fellow service members whenever possible. “I sacrificed very little compared to some,” he explains. “I served as well as my father who was in the Army, my two other brothers and two nephews also served in the United States Marine Corps just like I did. We were all fortunate enough to come home to our loved ones. Some aren’t so lucky and for them we are all eternally grateful.”
“Once we heard about the monument, me and Steadman really got fired up,” says Whitlatch. “We were inspired to bring this to our home. As soon as we got home from seeing the monument in Yakima, we started getting board members going and selecting a location. The plan is to build this monument at 521 Sleater Kinney Road right in the heart of our town.”
Bringing a monument to Lacey is no easy feat. With the cost ranging from $60,000 to $100,000, Whitlatch and Steadman have been working hard to make this dream a reality because they know the positive impact it will have on our community. “It will bring so much love and respect to family members who never really received closure,” says Steadman. “We live in a military community and honoring them can bring awareness to the tough part of being a nation of free citizens.”
Honoring these service members doesn’t stop at the monument. “We already have a Civic Park in Lacey,” explains Steadman. “Once this memorial is complete, we want to combine our efforts to create an honor wall and then eventually a Medal of Honor Memorial monument. Honoring the military, educating the citizens, and being a constant reminder that freedom, liberty, and democracy comes at a cost.”
“This is important to the City of Lacey to honor the families and remembering the people that have served,” says Whitlatch. “The soldiers who have made that sacrifice need this tribute. It’s our goal to bring that honor home.” To learn how to become more involved with these efforts or make a donation, see the official Lacey WA Gold Star Families Memorial Monument webpage.