Tennessee Gold Star families honored with new memorial in Knoxville

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - The East Tennessee community recognized and honored dozens of Gold Star families with a new memorial, in their fallen loved ones' memory.

It's been more than 10 years since Gayle Thomas lost her son overseas, but to her, it feels like just yesterday.

"I just miss everything about him," Thomas said, choking back tears. "This is my son. He was killed in Iraq and 2005 by and IED. This is my husband and I lost him December 8, 2015."

Thomas and about 25 other Gold Star families gathered Monday at the East Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery for a historic occasion, witnessing the unveiling of the new Tennessee Gold Star Family Memorial.

"It's just heartwarming now that we have somewhere close by that we can come and talk to our boys," Alison Sillings, Gold Star mother, said.

The project was more than two years in the making, funded solely by donations.

At the dedication ceremony, Chad Graham spoke on behalf of his grandfather, World War II veteran Woody Williams, who put the idea into motion.

"We can never bring that family member back but hopefully these monuments provide some place for them to go and remember and proof that their loved one will not be forgotten," Graham said.

For Gold Star mothers like Thomas, she said while she will never be able to hold her loved one's hand again, the memorial ensures his legacy will live on.

"We just don't want people to forget them and it's a blessing that they put this here for us and for all of them."

The Knoxville memorial marks the 17th Gold Star family memorial throughout the country. The goal, however, is to get one in all 50 states.

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