TUPELO • American Legion Post 49 is seeking donations to build a monument to honor fallen soldiers.
The group is raising funds to build a Gold Star Families Memorial Monument at Veterans Park in Tupelo. Gold Star Families are those with active military members who have died in service. The designation refers to the tradition of families of active service members displaying flags featuring a blue star to show they have a loved one in harm’s way. The color changes to gold for service members lost during their service.
“They sacrificed a lot, and we do a lot to honor and remember the service members that served and those that gave the ultimate sacrifice,” said Michael Pettigrew, commander of American Legion Post 49. “The families that lost a direct loved one do suffer quite tremendously, and we feel they should be honored with a monument here in Veterans Park.”
The effort is supported by the Woody Williams Foundation, a national nonprofit organization named after Medal of Honor recipient Hershel “Woody” Williams that seeks to raise awareness for Gold Star Families. Part of the group’s efforts include fostering the creation of Gold Star Families Memorial Monuments. Currently, there are 86 such monuments installed and 76 in progress across 50 states and one U.S. territory. The Tupelo monument would be Mississippi’s third.
The Tupelo initiative started with Donna Bagwell of Pontotoc in 2017, whose son, USMC Lance Corporal Lucas Tucker, died in Iraq in 2005. During the initial effort, the Tupelo Veterans Council approved the monument and its placement. The council is now raising the rest of the funds needed to build the monument. The city has agreed to do site preparation, Pettigrew said.
“That reduced the amount of money that we had to raise, so we’re very appreciative of that,” Pettigrew said.
Though there is no specific timeline for the project, Pettigrew said the earliest it could be ready is spring. The group wants to schedule and host a dedication ceremony for when Hershel Williams can attend.
The monument will cost $60,000 to build, with a third of that cost needed to begin the process. The project has already raised $10,000, with the goal to raise an additional $10,000 to $15,000 by September.
American Legion Post 49 has already reached out to all the veteran organizations throughout the region to help raise funds. They are also reaching out to the community to contribute towards the effort.
“My goal is to have all the money required for the monument pledged by the end of this month, with the amount that we need on hand to actually order the granite, one-third of the total amount. That’s my first milestone,” Pettigrew said.