Governor Laura Kelly Honors Kansas’ Gold Star Families with Addition of Monument on Statehouse Grounds

TOPEKA – Governor Laura Kelly today honored Kansas Gold Star Families with the unveiling of the permanent monument on the grounds of the Kansas State Capitol Visitors Center. A Gold Star Family is the immediate family of a fallen service member who died while serving in a time of conflict. The monument honors the families of the more than 6,500 Kansas heroes.

“For Gold Star families – the families of our fallen service members – the pain of their loved one’s absence never, ever goes away,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “That’s why it is so important to honor the families of those we’ve lost, the families who have also made the ultimate sacrifice. They are a reminder of the tremendous price of our freedom.”

Governor Kelly asked Lieutenant General Perry Wiggins, Executive Director of the Governor’s Military Council, to explore the process to install a permanent monument after Hershel “Woody” Williams, a retired Marine Corps warrant officer and a Medal of Honor recipient from World War II, personally challenged her to add a Gold Star Families Monument on Statehouse grounds. Williams passed away in June.

“I want to thank the Kansas Legislature for passing Senate Bill 330, which allowed for this permanent memorial to be placed on Capitol Grounds,” Governor Kelly said. “Woody would be so pleased to know that Kansas has fulfilled its obligation to have a place to pay respect to the families whose loved ones made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country.”

“Today’s dedication of the Kansas Gold Star Families Memorial was made possible by the Herculean and collective efforts of many Kansans,” Lieutenant General Perry Wiggins, Executive Director of the Governor’s Military Council, said. “The Kansas Gold Star Memorial Monument stands as a symbol of the grateful citizens of the State of Kansas wrapping their arms around and honoring our Gold Star Families who sacrificed a loved one for our liberties and freedom.”

“I’m honored to have played a small part in establishing the Gold Star Memorial on the Capitol Grounds,” Senator Jeff Longbine, Kansas Senate District 17, said. “These families deserve to be honored forever for the sacrifice their loved ones made in defending our freedom and liberties. We are forever grateful.”

“The Kansas Gold Star Families Memorial honors unsung heroes— the families of service members fallen during military conflict— for their service to the U.S. military,” Senator Tom Hawk, Kansas Senate District 22, said. “Thanks to the leadership of Governor Kelly and General Perry Wiggins, Kansans can now pay tribute along the Veterans Memorial Walk at the Statehouse.”

Derek Nester
Derek Nester
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2020 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.

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