Monument to Gold Star families dedicated at All Veterans Memorial Plaza in Berg Park

Sept. 24 ceremony was culmination of multiyear effort

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — A crowd of approximately 250 people turned out last weekend to witness the dedication of the latest addition to Farmington's All Veterans Memorial Plaza in Berg Park, a monument to Gold Star families in San Juan County.

The event took place on the morning of Saturday, Sept. 24 and included music, speeches and a ceremony, as well as the unveiling of the granite memorial itself. Gold Star families are those who have lost a family member who was an active-duty member of the U.S. armed forces.

Gary Smouse, co-chairman of the committee that arranged for the creation of the monument, said the event was the culmination of a long effort to raise money for the project, as well as build it and dedicate it.

"It takes your breath away," Smouse said of the monument. "It's gorgeous, and what it represents is humbling – families that don't have their loved ones here. It's a monument that I think is the pinnacle of All Veterans Memorial Plaza. We're grateful to the city for giving us that property and supporting this initiative."

The dedication was attended by Kelland Garland, the director of outreach and education for the Woody Williams Foundation, the nonprofit organization that has helped establish Gold Star family monuments throughout the United States. Garland spoke during the dedication ceremony, explaining that the monument in Farmington is the first Gold Star families monument in New Mexico.

The first Gold Star families memorial monument in New Mexico was dedicated Sept. 24 in All Veterans Memorial Plaza in Farmington's Berg Park.

"By committing to the installation and dedication of this Gold Star family memorial monument, this community and the monument committee have insured that those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice and their families will not be forgotten," Garland said in his speech.

Garland also recognized Smouse and Martin Cadell, the other co-chairman of the committee, for the work they did in getting the monument built. Smouse said the entire $100,000 needed for the monument and its associated costs was raised in 2019. But a series of issues in getting the granite shipped from India, construction delays and problems caused by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic prevented it from being finished and dedicated until now.

Smouse said he regretted that Woody Williams himself was not present for the dedication, as the World War II veteran and Medal of Honor winner for whom the foundation is named died in July.

The polished granite memorial is intended to honor the families of American service men and women who have died in the line of duty.

But Smouse said this monument is only the second of the nation's 109 Gold Star family memorial monuments that features an image of Williams on it. The other is in Williams' home state of West Virginia, he said.

Smouse said more than 40 Gold Star families were represented at last weekend's dedication ceremony, which he described as incredibly rewarding. He said he hopes visitors to Berg Park who stroll through All Veterans Memorial Plaza and encounter the new memorial will take a moment to consider the sacrifice those service men and women, and their families have made.

"My biggest hope is that they take some time to ponder what it means to live in the greatest country in the world," he said. "The price we pay for freedom in not free."

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or Support local journalism with a digital subscription: