"If we don't do this, it absolutely won't be done," said Mike Hale, who served as a Marine during the Vietnam era, as he and fellow Marine Corps League member Jack Nuckols waited recently for a chance to discuss their project — a memorial monument honor Gold Star families, with Ashland's mayor.
Wearing the distinctive red jackets of the Marine Corps League, Hale and Nuckols say they know the monument effort will be challenging.
"Forty-thousand is a lot of money," said Nuckols, who was wounded as a Marine fighting at Okinawa. Hale said the cost of the monument could be as much as $50,000.
However, undaunted by the challenge, the men said they will first meet with local business owners, as well as area elected officials, to gain momentum and collect contributions.
"I'm one of the younger ones in our organization and I'm 61 years old. You have to understand that when I was growing up, these guys were our heroes," Hale said, pointing to Nuckols and citing the service of local men, while pledging his own energies to help build a monument honoring families whose loved ones did not come home from wars in foreign lands.
"We strive to perpetuate the spirit of patriotism," Hale continued, noting the differences between his own service in Vietnam and his son's time in Afghanistan. "Patriotism, I think, is at an all-time high since World War II."
The Gold Star Families monument is an effort by Medal of Honor recipient Hershel "Woody" Williams, of Huntington, whose foundation has already worked to establish two of the memorials. The local effort would establish the first Gold Star memorial monument in Kentucky, and is proposed to be located at the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery Northeast.
Some elements of the design remain to be determined, although the monument will be a memorial for each of the nation's five military branches, and not dedicated purely to the USMC. Hale said they have options for three of the monument's panels, although he notes, "This one won't be changed," as he points out the famous image of the flag-raising at Iwo Jima.
"All of the branches will be honored by it. We're just the ones collecting the money for it," Nuckols noted. "It will have five discs with all of the emblems."
For more information or to support the effort to establish the monument, call Nuckols at (606) 324-4060.