Veterans memorials

Gold Star Family Memorials
by Rachel Harlow

Gold Star Family Memorials

Those in the line of duty risk everything to protect this country, sometimes offering their own lives to ensure our continued safety and freedom. Relatives and friends mourn, time passes and wounds heal, and there’s the ever-looming fear of being forgotten. This is why memorials honoring fallen soldiers are so important. They ensure that the brave men and women of this nation are never truly left behind.

When the United States was thrust into combat during World War I, many men left the comforts of their homes to serve on the front lines, risking it all to bring an end to the conflict and ensure peace for their homeland and countrymen. It was during this time that Army Captain Robert L. Queissner of the 5th Ohio Infantry designed and patented the first ever service flag. Though the design has changed over the years, the premise remains the same – it’s a banner with a white background and a blue star for each family member who’s in the military. If a relative dies while serving their country, a blue star is replaced with a gold one.

The U.S. Naval Academy describes it best when they say, “The color of the stars is symbolic in that the blue star represents hope and pride, and the gold star represents sacrifice to the cause of liberty and freedom.”

Since the gold star’s inception, the nation has created multiple ways to recognize the deceased and their surviving loved ones. This includes (but is not limited to) the creation of Gold Star Mother’s Day on the last Sunday of September, Gold Star Spouse’s Day on April 5th, and Gold Star Children’s Day on August 1st; the authorization of Gold Star Lapel Buttons and Next of Kin Lapel Buttons; and the use of specialized license plates for gold star family members. Several organizations have also cropped up over the years to support survivors and help spread awareness.

One such organization is the Woody Williams Foundation, the seeds of which were first planted when Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Hershel “Woody” Williams was only 18 years old. Pearl Harbor had just been bombed and the United States was entering World War II. Moved by a strong sense of patriotism, Woody joined the Civilian Conservation Corps, a public relief program for unemployed and unmarried men to help on the home front. Woody, for one, was often tasked with delivering the death notices of fallen soldiers to families throughout West Virginia. It was during this time that he witnessed the grief and turmoil of loss firsthand, and it shook him to his core.

It was this, paired with his time in the Marine Corps, that ultimately led to the creation of the Woody Williams Foundation. The organization prides itself on creating Gold Star Families Memorial Monuments across all fifty states; hosting Gold Star Family Outreach programs, which includes 5k runs, school speeches, and events at local parks; offering scholarships to eligible god star family members; and, of course, supporting motorcycle runs such as Tour of Honor. Even after Woody’s passing on June 29, 2022, his legacy lives on with his foundation.

With over 130 monuments built and 60 more in progress (as of November 2023), the Woody Williams Foundation is by far the greatest contributor to gold star memorials throughout the United States. However, that doesn’t mean that other gold star monuments are any less impactful or important. Other organizations, such as the National Garden Clubs and the Gold Star Mothers National Monument Foundation, have also built memorials in honor of fallen soldiers and their surviving loved ones.

This challenge is to collect photos of Gold Star Family monuments, honoring those who lost an immediate family member while they were in military service during combat.

Gold Star Family Memorial

Each submission should clearly show:
A) The qualifying monument
B) Your motorcycle*
C) Rider flag(s) – passenger photos must include the passenger
D) Enough of the background to identify the location, or photo be geotag enabled.
*No parking on sidewalks or lawns, unless given permission by caretakers or law enforcement. Your motorcycle is NOT required to be in the picture if doing so is impractical or unsafe. An additional photo with rally flag and motorcycle as close to the memorial location as possible when you are unable to get all in same photo.

There will be three basic levels of finishers:
Bronze - 10 or more different GSF monuments verified
Silver - 20 or more different GSF monuments verified
Gold - 30 or more different GSF monuments verified

Highly motivated riders can reach an even higher level:
Woody Level - 50 or more different GSFmonuments verified
Named in honor of Hershel "Woody" Williams, the oldest living Congressional Medal of Honor recipient and founder of the Gold Star Family Memorial Foundation.

TOH scorers will have final say whether a visit is allowed or not. 

Gold Star Family Memorials map

Click on the map above for an interactive map of known Gold Star Family Memorials. Click here for a GPX file (rev. 5/15/24), and an up-to-date listing by state here. The map and GPX file are provided by scorer Eric Marshall. For corrections, updates and/or additions, let Eric or Marlisa know at [email protected]

We also encourage riders to consider attending these groundbreakings and dedications.

NOTE: The list mentioned above has a column labeled “Restrictions.” Any locations labeled something other than “none” may have a restriction of some kind. Examples would include, but not be limited to: military installations, museums, offices, cemeteries, etc. These may be accessible only on certain days, have limited hours, require a special ID or guest pass, have an admission fee, etc. It is up to riders to pre-scout locations to determine access.   

Photos of museum doors, hangars, guard shacks or other barricades visited on days or during hours when access to the object of the visit isn't available, are not eligible for scoring.



Echo Mountain Inn in North Carolina
Ask about being a sponsor

©2019-2024 Tour of Honor, LLC. All rights reserved.