A new memorial at the Mills County Courthouse honors the hundreds of Mills County residents who fought in World War II.
Goldthwaite residents Dale Berry, Robert Womack and Steven Bridges have been working since last June to erect the monument, which includes five slabs of North Carolina gray granite inscribed with the names in alphabetical order and the large inscription, “The people of Mills County would like to honor and thank the greatest generation of men & women who served in World War II for our freedom.”
It all started when Berry wrote a letter to the editor that ran in the Goldthwaite Eagle last June. Berry’s father, uncle and father-in-law were all World War II veterans — his father Leston Berry earned a Purple Heart at the Battle of the Bulge — and Berry had been looking for years for a way to honor them. Womack and Bridges agreed to help, and the group found a list of 548 veterans’ names printed just after the war, most from the European theater.
A further addition from 2003 gave the new memorial committee over 1,100 names to work with. “We put the list of these names in the paper,” Womack said, “We relied on the people to call us and tell us if we were right or wrong, to add or delete. A lot of people called us.”
Spreading the word in the Eagle, the group was able to collect donations rapidly. Berry said a majority of donations were modest and came from locals who wanted to chip in. “I thought it was going to take a couple of years to get enough money, being here in this little county,” he said. “But we got it no sweat. It’s remarkable that in 10 months we’re sitting here finished.”
Much of the installation labor and some of the memorial materials were donated — Womack, for instance, donated the benches that surround the tablets.
Riley Gardner Memorial of Hamilton, Texas prepared the actual tablets, Womack said.
“They’re super people,” Berry said. “They helped us out a lot.”
Berry said the community reception to the memorial has been overwhelmingly positive. And because of all the donations, Womack said, the committee might next consider a memorial for Korea and Vietnam veterans as well.
For now, though, Womack said he is glad to finally be recognizing the Mills County members of the “greatest generation.”
“I was born six days before they dropped the bomb on Japan,” Womack said, “and I’ve never known anything but freedom because of what these men did.”
There will be an official dedication ceremony for the monument on Memorial Day, May 29.