(Michigan City, IN) - A special veterans’ memorial stopped in Michigan City this weekend.
The Gold Star Tribute Wall was on display at Ames Field. The traveling memorial honors Americans killed in action during the Gulf War and in Iraq and Afghanistan.
For Karen Durnell of Michigan City, who stopped by Sunday morning after church, the memorial is personal. She has a son-in-law in the U.S. Army who is on his way to Afghanistan, and her 18-year-old granddaughter just enlisted in the Marines. "So, being patriotic in many, many ways and for many, many reasons," she said, "I just felt I had to come and pray for those that have lost their lives so that we can have freedom."
For Sam Nicoara of Georgia, who created the display, it’s a labor of love. Nicoara is a commercial pilot who uses his free time to tour the memorial around the country. He only makes it to about 10 locations per year, so Michigan City was fortunate to see it. The Gold Star Wall was scheduled to visit last year, but was delayed due to COVID-19.
Nicoara says he built the wall because the government takes too long to create war memorials. He said Congress takes at least ten years after the official closing of a conflict to even consider a monument. The WWII Memorial, for example, took 62 years to create. Nicoara believes recent fallen heroes and their families deserve honor now, especially since conflict in the Middle East has dragged on for so long. "Do a little math," Nicoara said. "Most KIAs [Killed in Action] are late teens, early 20s; their parents are in their 40s. Sixty years later, they're never seeing anything to memorialize their child's sacrifice. We build this now," Nicoara continued, "We're going to take this as far and wide as we can afford to take it, and God gives us the strength and financial ability to make it happen, so that the Gold Stars, the families of the fallen can see that their child's sacrifice and their sacrifices have not been forgotten."
Unfortunately, the number of casualties from the War on Terror continues to grow. And Nicoara will continue adding to the over 7,400 names. He already has enough names from the past few years to add three more panels.
He’s also sensitive to the number of veterans who take their own lives after military service. Nicoara is working on a display to raise awareness for the 22 veterans a day who commit suicide.
To learn more about the Gold Star Tribute Wall or to support its mission, visit the website www.TributeWall.org.