A monument dedicated to the families of fallen U.S. military members was unveiled Wednesday in Lynnwood’s newly redeveloped Veterans Memorial Park.
Hundreds gathered in the park – located at 44th Avenue West and 194th Street Southwest – to witness the unveiling of the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument. Gold Star Families are those family members of military personnel who died in the line of duty. During the ceremony, Lynnwood Mayor Christine Frizzell thanked the Gold Star Mothers in attendance and assured them they were not alone in their grief.
“Losing a child is a heavy, heavy burden but know it’s not one you have to carry alone,” she said. “We hope this monument and this park will be a place of remembrance and reflection for you and your families.”
In 2019, Lynnwood was chosen over four other cities to receive the monument. To fund the project, the Washington State American Gold Star Mothers partnered with the Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation, which is dedicated to honoring and paying tribute to families who have sacrificed a loved one in service of their country.
Williams was a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient from WWII who had plans to see a monument dedicated to Gold Star Families in all 50 states. Though Williams died in June of this year, his work will continue through his foundation, said speaker and U.S. Marine Corps veteran Michael Reagan.
“These are the people this country owes the most to,” he said. “This (monument) represents what Woody has done.”
Lynnwood’s monument is unique compared to others. In addition to honoring those who were POW/MIA, it is the first monument to recognize Indigenous veterans and those who died by suicide, said keynote speaker retired Lieutenant General Mark Wise.
“The importance of what this (monument) stands for goes well beyond the Gold Star Families,” he said.
Surrounding the monument are 22 stone seats in honor of service members who died by suicide after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Under the monument, sand from Iwo Jima, Japan; water from Belleau Wood, France and three military challenge coins were buried in its foundation.
Along with the unveiling of the new monument, Veterans Park also received updates such as ADA parking stalls, accessible pathways, bench seating, an expanded plaza area and landscape renovations. Future work will include restoring 300 bricks engraved with local veterans’ names and adding the names to granite paneling behind the monument.
The monument is the 200th to be installed in the country and the third to come to Washington state. During the ceremony, Deputy Director of Washington State Department of Affairs David Puente Jr. read a letter from Gov. Jay Inslee, who praised the Gold Star Mothers for their tireless work to bring the monument to Lynnwood.
“Washingtonians and indeed all Americans owe these Gold Star Families a tremendous debt,” Inslee wrote. “We honor you for your sacrifice to our state and nation. Your dedication to promoting awareness ensures that our children and communities remember our fallen and understand the cost of freedoms we hold dear.”
The monument is the latest in Lynnwood’s efforts to be a “veteran-friendly” city, said U.S. Air Force veteran and Lynnwood City Councilmember Shannon Sessions. Other efforts include the Heroes’ Cafe – a widespread network aimed at supporting veterans across South Snohomish County and holding veteran recognition events. Earlier this year, the city also posted signs at the city’s entrances dedicated to local veterans.
“It’s a small thing but means a lot to veterans and their families that Lynnwood recognizes that they’re special,” Sessions said.
Also in attendance was local Gold Star Mother Myra Rintamaki. Rintamaki’s son, U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Steven Rintamaki — a Meadowdale High School graduate — died in Iraq in 2004. Rintamaki – who arranges the monthly Heroes’ Cafe meetings – called the ceremony a “wonderful compilation” of all the work it took to bring the monument to Lynnwood.
“It is for many, many people in our community to come and not just pay respects but really to honor the service of all those (who served),” she said. “It really gives that cohesiveness of what that service meant.”
— Story and photos by Cody Sexton