POCATELLO — Rebecca Webb believes her late son, Master Sgt. Christopher V. Webb, would have been proud of what she’s accomplished on behalf of fallen U.S. soldiers and their families.
Her vision of a monument honoring Idaho’s Gold Star families and soldiers who have given their lives in defense of the country is rapidly taking shape. She was also recently granted a charter for Idaho’s only chapter of American Gold Star Mothers.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the planned Idaho Gold Star Families Memorial and Monument is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. on Wednesday at the Northgate multi-use development’s construction site in northeast Pocatello.
“I have met a lot of Gold Star families across the nation at different events. It is a really hard thing to go through. It is a devastating experience,” Webb said. “I think as families, we have to work our way through that (grief) and find a way to go on and remember our fallen heroes.”
Sgt. Christopher Webb served for almost 18 years with the Idaho National Guard. He died in June 2017.
“He had the most wonderful personality. He made everybody feel welcome, and he looked out for the underdog,” Webb said of her son. “Chris is a hero to me, and he’ll always be a hero to me.”
Similar memorials are being constructed throughout the country under the direction of the Hershel “Woody” Williams Medal of Honor Foundation, which is based in Louisville, Kentucky.
Webb was inspired to propose the memorial last summer, after meeting Williams while attending the American Gold Star Mothers national convention in Long Beach, California. Williams is the last surviving Marine from World War II who was awarded a Medal of Honor.
“He had a vision to have these memorial monuments in every state across our nation,” Webb said, adding the Gold Star monuments are unique in that they also recognize the sacrifices of families of fallen soldiers. “I just came back and I felt like I was supposed to do this. I’ve had certainty inside of me.”
The monument will have 44 gold stars representing every Idaho county and five eagle feathers surrounding it to represent the state’s Native American tribes.
A large gold star in the center of the memorial will symbolize the loss experienced by loved ones when a service member makes the ultimate sacrifice for our nation, as well as the service members who have given their lives in defense of the country.
The monument will include the flags of the U.S., the state of Idaho and each branch of the military. Flags will also recognize the Honor and Remember, Gold Star and POWMIA organizations.
Portneuf Development Inc. has donated land within the Northgate project to house the monument. The developer will also help with grading and infrastructure.
The total value of the donation is estimated at $700,000, leaving monument planners to raise an additional $275,000, said Greg Gunter, with Rave Communications, which is helping with publicity and development of fundraising materials in support of the project.
“The pace of fundraising is picking up,” Gunter said, adding people have become more willing to support the monument as it’s become more apparent the project will come to fruition. “Several organizations have already stepped up with significant donations and sponsorship of different components of the plaza.”
Organizers hope to dedicate the completed monument in the fall. Gunter said it will encompass half an acre of land, much of it xeriscaped with low-water features intended to enhance the monument as a place for reflection. It will be located off of the main entrance to Northgate, accessed by a street to be called Gold Star Drive. Off-street parking will also be developed for the monument.
“Ask any Gold Star family member — mother, father, brother or sister — and the most important thing to them is that the service man or woman who laid down their life not be forgotten,” Gunter said.
Gunter said black marble has already been ordered for the project, where the marble silhouette of a soldier will salute the setting sun. The property also offers an unobstructed view of the Snake River Plain, Gunter said.
During the groundbreaking, Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad and Chubbuck Mayor Kevin England will speak, as will Maj. Shawn Edwards with the Idaho Army National Guard, who is area officer with the 116th Brigade Engineer Battalion. Maj. John Martinez, with the 1st Battalion, 183rd Aviation Regiment of the Idaho Army National Guard, will serve as chaplain.
Konni Kendell, of the Pocatello mayor’s office, will perform the National Anthem, and VFW Post 735 and a Pocatello veterans honor guard will post the colors.
Webb said the progress made on the monument wouldn’t have been possible without the help of a committee formed last fall to aid in the project. She believes working on the project has helped in her own healing process, and she expects the monument will also provide a source of healing for other families.
“I have been so blessed in so many ways in this monument project,” Webb said. “I have experienced the generosity of so many people and so much support.”
American Gold Star Mothers is a service organization, comprising mothers who have lost a child in service of the country. The organization was incorporated in 1924 and chartered by Congress in 1984.
Webb said the organization’s members provide thousands of service hours to help servicemen, wounded veterans and their families.
“We each understand what it’s like to lose a child in military service to our nation,” Webb said. “I think it’s important to give back, and I think we heal by giving back.”
In addition to getting a charter to start a local chapter, the organization granted her a department, which she hopes will serve as an umbrella for other Idaho chapters. She’s seeking to organize additional mothers in Northern Idaho and Central Idaho. Five mothers must participate in each chapter.
Anyone interested in inquiring about participating in a new Gold Star Mothers chapter may contact Webb at email@example.com.