City of Tupelo may pay to have Gold Star Monument re-installed correctly

Pennsylvania based contractor installed monument backwards, now city says they want to help

TUPELO, Miss. (WCBI) –  The City of Tupelo will likely pay to have a monument honoring Gold Star Families re-installed at Veteran’s Park.

When the marble monument was installed last year, Gold Star Family members said it was installed backward, and even though the city didn’t install the monument, they are being asked to make it right.

“There was miscommunication somewhere along the line.  I’m not pointing fingers, I’m just asking that it be fixed,” said Donna Bagwell, who was one of several Gold Star Family members who spoke to Tupelo City Councilmembers during the work session. Her son, Lance Corporal Lucas Tucker, died in Iraq in 2005.

All of them had the same request, they want the Gold Star Memorial at Veteran’s Park to be re-installed correctly.

The families said when the monument was put in over the Labor Day weekend, the Pennsylvania-based contractor installed it backward.

David McElroy, the founder of “Flags of Honor Escorts” and a spokesman for the Gold Star families, has visited Gold Star Memorials across the country.

“Of the 113 I’ve been to they’re all placed in a prominent place in the park, or some are in front of the city council building, or in front of the state capitol in five states, and they’re always oriented with the front side of the monument at the most prominent avenue of approach,” McElroy said.

At Veteran’s Park, the title of the monument faces the lake, while panels titled “Homeland, Family, Patriot, and Sacrifice” face the main drive through the park.

McElroy said correcting the placement of the monument is all about respect.

“When it’s not facing the right way it’s like somebody has turned their backs on the families and the purpose of the monument and it needs to be corrected,” McElroy said.

The monument is owned by the group that raised money for its purchase and installation. Gold Star family members said the installer has already said he will not move the monument. It will cost about $20,000 to reconfigure the monument. Tupelo-based Baxter Crane Company has expressed interest in resetting it, as long as a waiver is signed freeing them of any liability should the monument get damaged during the process. Gold Star family members said they would gladly sign the waiver.

Tupelo Mayor Todd Jordan said even though the city is not responsible for the mistake, city leaders are willing to do what they can.

“We hate this happened, we are not sure how it happened. We aren’t the organizer and didn’t hire the installer, but it needs to be a collective effort to get this monument turned the right way. That way we can move forward and no one is really to blame, we just have to work together on this,” Mayor Jordan said.

The Tupelo City Council will look at all the details involved with correcting the placement of the monument. They are expected to make a decision on the project and the $20,000 price tag within the next 30 days.

Tupelo’s Finance Director Kim Hanna said the money for the re-installation would likely come from the capital fund.

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