War monument for NJ Gold Star families closer to reality
About 70 percent of the $100,000 needed to build a permanent memorial, dedicated to New Jersey Gold Star families whose children don't return from war, has been raised in less than a year.
The monument would be located next to the existing New Jersey Vietnam Veterans' War Memorial and Museum in Holmdel, according to those spearheading the fundraising efforts.
Vietnam veteran Terry Fearon of Brick Township jump-started the idea of having a memorial dedicated to Gold Star families last fall. He said that while service dogs have a monument, nothing exists for those families ravaged by war.
"Every day is Memorial Day to Gold Star families," Fearon said.
Gold Star mother Eileen Daly of Brick Township lost her son, Sgt. Ronald A. Kubik, in Operation Enduring Freedom on April 23, 2010. Kubik, a U.S. Army Ranger in the elite 3rd Battalion, 75th Regiment, was leading an assault team in Logar Province, Afghanistan. He was a 2006 graduate of Manasquan High School who had already completed three tours of duty by age 21.
"Your heart is broken. You're in shock. You just can't wrap your head around the fact that your child is never going to come home, " Daly said. "He was an amazing young man, and he was strong and independent and he loved life, and he had an enthusiasm for life."
Daly said she's now using her grief as energy to give Gold Star families a voice.
Sgt. Kubik saved 29 lives the day he was killed, including 19 Afghan women and children. In 2013, he was awarded the military's third-highest decoration for valor, the Silver Star.
"He has the Purple Heart, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Bronze Star, and now the Silver Star, so he's really an amazing hero," Daly said.
Names of heroes like Kubik will be permanently etched in the monument, which according to Fearon will consist of a 20-ton obelisk of black granite on a pedestal, in a tranquil setting.
The monument also will serve as an educational tool for students who visit the Veterans' Memorial during class trips.
Fearon said various charities and Gold Star families have contributed funding for the project. The Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski II Memorial Fund recently donated $12,500 to help fund the Gold Star Family Monument.
Donations to the 501(c)(3) organization are tax deductible and can be made online at njgoldstarfamilymonument.org.