Group hopes to build memorial for Gold Star families in downtown Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who paid their respects on Memorial Day, many are loved ones of our nation’s fallen.

While Memorial Day is a day for all of us to honor their son, daughter or spouse, for them it’s a day that reopens wounds.

“He was killed 6/6 of ’06,” remembers Janice Schauwecker with precision. “He was the 6th soldier killed that day and the 66th soldier with Indiana ties.”

The date and the details for this Gold Star Mom are forever etched in memory.

She wears a reminder of her son’s sacrifice close to her heart, a necklace with her husband’s Gold Star pin set inside. They received the pins when her son, Rick Blakely, died for our country as a front-line medic in Iraq nearly 11 years ago.

“He always helped other people, so we want to kind of pay it forward,” said Schauwecker.

Schauwecker wants to help others grieving by building a memorial as tribute to all Gold Star family members, not just the mothers, fathers, husbands and wives of the fallen.

She knows all too well that every family member feels the loss constantly.

“Memorial Day is for everyone to recognize, for a few hours and then they go on with their life,” said Schauwecker. “A Gold Star family lives it every day. Every single day.”

She’s found an ally in Jill Fewell. Jill has helped collect donation pledges, raise awareness and lobby for a site on state grounds.

“We want one here in downtown Indianapolis,” said Fewell. “We feel like it’s the most appropriate place.”

Only one other city has more war memorials than Indianapolis, our nation’s capital. That’s why the two women feel there’s no city better prepared for the Gold Star Memorial than Indy.

“We just want them to know that they’re not forgotten,” said Schauwecker. “It’s not something you’re going to get through. It’s something you learn to live with.”

The group hopes to announce a location for the memorial somewhere in downtown Indianapolis within the next few months. If fundraising goes well, they plan to dedicate it by next year.

They both know the headstones will always be where Janice and others mourn, but they hope the wall could be where they heal.

“I don’t feel we can do enough,” said Schauwecker. “They’ve done so much.”