The four-day New Jersey Run for the Fallen, whose mission is to run one mile for every New Jersey service member killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom and New Dawn, culminated outside the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial at the PNC Arts Center on Sunday, September 27, with the dedication of a brand new monument by master sculptor Brian Hanlon.
The NJ Gold Star Family Monument, the idea first instituted in 2013 by the New Jersey Run for the Fallen and brought to life by Hanlon, is a place for reflection, remembrance and honor with a seven-and-a-half-foot, five-sided granite pedestal engraved with information about the Gold Star families and the Armed Forces. A flag sculpture is mounted on top.
“It was a very emotional dedication. What a privilege it is to be able to memorialize and pay tribute to those who have fought to protect our freedoms,” said Brian Hanlon who was raised in Holmdel. “They deserve this lasting example of respect, and it serves as a poignant reminder to others of how important their legacy is. It’s nice to know that the nation recognizes the sacrifice that all Gold Star Family members make when a loved one dies in service to the nation.”
The monument captures the emotional spirit with a depiction of a father holding his son’s dog tags sitting on a bench; a wife holding her husband’s folded flag and sitting with her child; two granite benches; engraved granite pavers; and an inlaid granite star with each piece engraved with seals representing each branch of the military.
“My great uncle Robert was killed in action as a Marine during World War II so I’m proud to honor his memory along with the many servicemen and women who sacrificed their lives,” Hanlon added.
This is not the first time Brian Hanlon has honored the fallen through art. Some of his other sculptures include the Purple Heart-recipient and hero from World War II, Anthony F. Gallo in East Rutherford; Angel in Anguish, which honored 9/11 victims and heroes in Brick Township; the World War II Memorial in Manchester; and 2nd Lt. Carol Ann Drazba, an Army nurse who was the first woman to die in the Vietnam War, in Scranton, PA.
Sunday’s dedication marked the 79th anniversary of when the United States began observing Gold Star Mother’s Day on the last Sunday of September 1936. The term Gold Star family is a modern reference that comes from the Service Flag. These flags/banners were first flown by families during World War I. The flag included a blue star for every immediate family member serving in the armed forces of the United States, during any period of war or hostilities in which the armed forces of the United States were engaged. If that loved one died, the blue star was replaced by a gold star. This allowed members of the community to know the price that the family had paid in the cause of freedom.
The Gold Star Wives was formed before the end of World War II. The Gold Star Lapel Button was established in August 1947.