Ever since the Honor Flight Southern Arizona hub was formed in 2009, more than 1,000 veterans from World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam War have flown cost-free for a three-day trip to Washington, D.C., to see the memorials built in their honor.
That’s in large part to Barb Brownlie’s efforts to establish a hub apart from Honor Flight Arizona.
Brownlie’s father was a pilot in the Navy for 27 years. Her family, including four children, lived in Illinois, Rhode Island, Kansas, Guam and wherever their dad’s job took them.
“It seems we were always living in different places and meeting new people,” she said. “Every three years we had a new family. It’s how I grew up.”
After 18 years as a Navy dependent, Brownlie was a Navy wife for 16 years.
Living her life in the military and for the military continues with her latest volunteer effort — working to raise $100,000 for a Woody Williams Foundation Memorial to honor Gold Star families in the greater-Tucson area.
Gold Star families are those who have lost an immediate family member in service to the country.
Williams’ devotion to duty, service members, veterans and their families began long before he entered the Marines in World War II and became a Medal of Honor and Purple Heart recipient.
“As World War II began, Woody came into direct contact with families in his own community when he delivered Western Union telegrams informing the Gold Star families of the death of their loved one,” Brownlie said. “Woody said those experiences gave him a greater appreciation for life and an understanding of the difference in death in the normal world as expected in life and those lost serving in the military of their country. He felt that recognition of the families of those lost in military service was very inadequate.”
Woody Williams Foundation
Williams’ observation of families when delivering telegrams and his personal commitment brought about the creation of the Woody Williams Foundation.
At 95, Williams decided to design and install the first Gold Star Families Memorial in Quiet Dells, West Virginia, his home state.
“Woody knew after seeing this memorial that every state across America should get involved and build a monument,” Brownlie said.
All 50 states now have one or more Woody Williams Gold Star Memorial Monuments. There are 93 Gold Star Monuments in the U.S.; 80 more are in the process of being built and installed.
The two Gold Star Memorials in Arizona are at the Southern Arizona Veterans’ Cemetery in Sierra Vista and at Wesley Bolin Plaza in Phoenix.
A Woody Williams Gold Star Memorial Monument in Tucson will be the third in Arizona and would reflect the sacrifice of a member of 180 Gold Star Families that the Tucson Gold Star Chapter has on file.
“There is never a day that goes by that our loved one is not missed,” said Gold Star mom Marsha Begay Moon of her son Chris Moon, who was killed in action in Afghanistan on July 13, 2010.
A Tucson memorial
The cost of building the granite memorial is $100,000, and $60,000 has been raised. It will be placed at the Veterans Gold Star Family Park on South Palo Verde Road in Tucson.
Brownlie, an honorary board member of the Woody Williams Foundation and co-chair with David Falkner of the Tucson Gold Star Families Memorial Monument, said the fundraising committee distributed information to local businesses, Rotary Clubs in Green Valley and Tucson, the VFW and American Legions and to charitable groups, friends and family.
“The monument is important for our Gold Star families to have a special place to sit and reflect on the loss of their loved on killed in action in war,” she said.
“Folks ask why I’m doing this… if Woody Williams, soon to be 99, can get behind this marvelous project, so can I… plus our Gold Star families must never be forgotten as they paid the ultimate sacrifice, too,” she said.