Georgia Memorial Honors Family Members of Fallen Troops

Families of Fallen memorial in White County, Georgia
Families of Fallen memorial in White County, Georgia. (Courtesy of Ron Webb, Northeast Georgia Veterans Society)

Bertie Mae Gibbs lost so much in one lifetime: Her husband died in World War II, and her daughter-in-law lost a child to miscarriage shortly after the family received news that Bertie's son had been killed just 14 days after landing in Vietnam.

Three family members lost to the direct and indirect effects of war, a tragic example of what Gold Star families face. Gibbs died in 2009, but when Ron Webb, president of the Northeast Georgia Veterans Society, heard her story in 2016, he knew it had to be honored.

Seven years later, on a chilly mid-December day in White County, Georgia, a statue inspired by Gibbs' story was dedicated to honor the families of the county who lost service members in war. It is called Families of Fallen.

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"Bertie Mae Gibbs lost a husband, a son and a grandchild on the altar of freedom for this country," Webb told on Tuesday.

Her first husband, Pvt. Ransome Queen, was killed in a battle against the German military in Belfort, France, in 1944, according to Webb. Gibbs later married a Korean War veteran; their son, Kenneth, followed the family tradition of service, joining the military.

When Kenneth departed for Vietnam, he left behind a wife, Brenda, who was pregnant. Fourteen days after he was ordered to Vietnam, on Sept. 4, 1967, Kenneth was killed during a Viet Cong ambush in Long Khanh Province, Webb told the crowd at the dedication Dec. 16 in Freedom Park, a large community green space in the middle of Cleveland, Georgia. The shock of his death caused Brenda to miscarry, he said.

"People must realize that even though soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines give their lives, it is the families who suffer the longest and grieve the longest, and they should be honored," Webb told on Tuesday. "And this was our token attempt to honor the families of the White County fallen."

The memorial depicts a service member handing a folded flag to a metaphorical mourner, much as they do during funeral honors. Next to it, a plaque reads, "Dedicated to the families of White County men and women who fought and died in service to their country."

The statue faces an obelisk dedicated to the White County service members -- about 30 of them, according to Webb -- who have died in service to the United States since World War I.

As far as military dedications go, the White County statue is rare, in Webb's estimation. In his travels around the country as a former member of the Air Force and FBI, he said he's seen only a few statues dedicated to the families of service members.

One that came up in a search as he was planning this dedication is in the village of Rothschild, Wisconsin, where a 5'7" bronze statue of a woman holding a crumpled telegram meant to depict a mother hearing about her son's death during World War I honors Gold Star Mothers. Next to that statue is a tipped-over flower pot and photo of the woman's son.

Webb said that his veterans organization helped raise about $15,000 for the White County dedication.

"When a military hero dies in service to his country, the pain and suffering is fleeting. Death comes in the moment of a bullet, shrapnel or the shock wave from a bomb blast crashing into a body," Webb told the crowd Saturday. "But for families of the war victims, the sense of loss and the agony of missing their loved ones carries on throughout their lives.”

Related: A New Addition to the Korean War Veterans Memorial Will Be Unveiled on Korean War Armistice Day

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