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'The burden of wonder:' Gold Star families discuss new memorial for Sandy City

Posted at 5:51 PM, Nov 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-12 19:51:33-05

SANDY, Utah — For the first time since the announcement in September, details have been released about the new Gold Star Memorial approved for Sandy City.

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This memorial will be the third of its kind in the Beehive state.

After honoring veterans both past and present, community members are coming together to honor another group with this memorial.

The sacrifice for freedom is not just paid by those in uniform -- a reality some families know all too well.

Jan Moncur wears a necklace twenty-four-seven -- it has a gold star with her son's name on it and the day he was killed.

"He's never forgotten," said Moncur.

Moncur's 20-year-old son Phillip was training for his second deployment to Iraq when a military tank rolled over, killing him and another soldier.

"I do think about what he would be doing. Would he be married? Would I have grandchildren? Would he have fulfilled his college degree in engineering?" said Moncur.

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Kim Olsen also carries this burden -- one she calls "the burden of wonder."

"My son was only 21 and he wasn’t married so I think about that a lot. What would he be doing today?" said Olsen.

Olsen's son Nigel was a U.S. Marine, transporting a Taliban prisoner in Afghanistan when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb.

"It’s so vivid in my mind. when three marines showed up to my place of work and you know what they’re going to tell you," said Olsen. "It’s like being punched in the gut."

Olsen said that day she joined a "club" no one ever wants to be a member of.

To be a Gold Star Family means to keep the servicemember's sacrifice going along with their memory.

"We paid the price too," said Olsen. "We made sacrifices as well and our hearts broke the day our son or daughter lost their life."

Sometimes in remembrance of the fallen, Olsen said those who are left behind are forgotten.

That's what motivated Sandy City Councilwoman Marci Houseman, Gold Star Widow Jennie Taylor, and a group of community members from across the state to come together and create a new, Gold Star Memorial.

"I want to honor those who sacrifice differently," said Houseman.

The memorial will not only honor the families of the fallen, but Houseman said it will be a place solely dedicated for them to have a place for remembrance.

"They can know there’s a community wrapping their arms around them to remember the fallen soldiers as well," said Houseman.

It's a cause that hits close to home for Houseman, whose father served two tours in Vietnam.

"I’m a daughter of a veteran and though he’s still with us, he’s not really with us," said Houseman.

Though she was born during her father's second tour, Houseman said her mother remarked he came home different.

Now, 46 years later, Houseman said her father is fighting a new fight: dementia.

"He doesn’t remember me, my children, sisters, any of his family but he does remember the Vietnam war," said Houseman.

When they moved her father to get greater care, Houseman said he only needed two things: his dog and his framed picture of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C.

"Having lost all memories of his family and only remembering his time in the war shows me how much his service meant to him," said Houseman.

The recent passing of Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover created heartache in Sandy, his hometown community, and inspired Houseman to act. SSGT. Hoover was one of the 13 U.S. service members killed in the Kabul Afghanistan Airport Attack.

"I want to honor not just SSGT. Taylor Hoover’s family, but others,"
said Houseman.

The Sandy City Council is still trying to find a location for the new memorial. Houseman said their goal is to raise $150,000 to cover the costs.

Councilmembers are working closely with the Woody Williams Foundation, who will install the memorial as part of the many memorials they've placed across the nation honoring Gold Star Families.

Utah has one other Gold Star Memorial in North Ogden, and another memorial is under construction in St. George.