Like all mothers who have lost a loved one during military conflict, Cher Kondor struggled to find a means of emotional catharsis in the midst of her sorrow. Killed by an improvised explosive device (IED), her son, Army SPC Martin Kondor, became a casualty of the Iraq War on April 29, 2004 – and his death served as the inspiration behind a unique monument known as the Veterans Memorial Gold Star Healing & Peace Garden, located in York City, Pennsylvania. Constructed for the initial cost of $750,000, the garden honors the memory of Pennsylvania’s war dead, especially those lost to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Realization of the memorial came about in large degree from the efforts of Ms. Condor, who remembers hugging her son for the last time at the Philadelphia International Airport in January of 2004. Posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart, Martin Kondor enlisted in the Army on his 18th birthday, not even 2 months after the infamous attacks of 911. “We have been attacked on our sovereign soil. I’m going to do something about it,” he told his parents and younger brother as they sat at the dining room table. Martin Kondor died while manning a machine gun in a convoy, when his armored vehicle hit a roadside bomb and exploded.
In an effort to cope with her grief, Kondor joined the American Gold Star Mothers, an organization formed in 1928 by women that had lost a son or daughter in World War I. Eventually assuming the office of Secretary for the Greater Harrisburg Chapter of Gold Star Mothers, she found solace in the company of other mothers who had buried loved ones that had died in the war. Forging ahead with her idea to build a peace garden, the kickoff for the construction of the memorial, described as “a memorial arboretum particularly dedicated to our intrepid sons and daughters now fighting the war on terror,” occurred at Murphy and Dittenhafer Architects in York City on November 22, 2011. Work began in January of 2012 by ripping up a parking lot, and the dedication occurred exactly on schedule with a ceremony held on June 9, 2012.
The completed memorial is beautiful, including symbolism that involves meditative areas that have been designated with a color. The different areas are planted with appropriately colored fauna to represent core values of those that served in the U. S. Armed Services. As outlined at the website, these colors include:
- Red represents Courage. Flowers include: Paprika Yarrow, Autumn Joy Sedum, Phlox “Scarlet Flame”, ”Limerock Ruby” Tickseed, Firepower Nandina, Japanese Blood Grass, Min Toy Daylily
- Orange represents Duty & Service. Flowers include: Lowboy Pyracantha, Sundown Coneflower, Tuscawilla Tigress Daylily, Butterfly Weed, Red Hot Poker, Orange Summer Phlox
- Yellow represents Remembrance. Flowers include: Gold Splash Euonymus, Golden Mop False Cypress, Golden Japanese Barberry, Carolina Moonlight False Indigo, Sun Power Hosta, “Lemon Silver” Evening Primrose, Bowies Golden Sedge, “Moonbeam” Tickseed
- Green represents Healing. Flowers include: Lady’s Mantle, Silver Variegated Sedge, Lime Rickey Coral Bells, Goldmound Spiraea, Plantain Lily, Martin’s Spurge, Scotch Moss, Bright Edge Yucca, Limelight Hydrangea
- Blue represents Fidelity. Flowers include: Blue Star Juniper, Rozanne Geranium, Blue Mist Spiraea, Blue Cadet Hosta, Spiderwort, Speedwell, False Indigo, Blue Star, Blue Fescue
- Purple represents Valor. Flowers include: New York Aster, Crimson Pygmy Barberry, Greyfeather, Dwarf Russian Sage, May Night Salvia, Black Mondo Grass, Catmint, Dwarf Beautyberry
- White represents Honor
As a “living memorial” to those that have sacrificed their lives in the war against terrorism, the design of the garden brings these characteristics to life, around a central plaza that is in the shape of a star. A fountain, intended to symbolize never-ending hope and life, bubbles vibrantly in the midst of this plaza – while a black granite Wall of Honor, designed to resemble the Vietnam War Memorial, is inscribed with the names of those from Pennsylvania that have fallen in the war against terror. Another separate wall, located at the front of the garden, lists the names of those from York County, Pennsylvania that have fallen in battle since the inception of the Gold Star Mothers in 1928.
It is fitting and appropriate to honor those that have fallen in battle to preserve our country and protect against the dangers of terrorism. As the inscription states, “war made them soldiers, their actions made them heroes. Consider the Gold Star Garden as we honor those who serve and those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the War on Terror.” Bricks and benches can be ordered for placement at the garden in recognition of military personnel, and the Gold Star Mothers are accepting donations to help pay for the remaining cost of the memorial’s construction. However, recognition of the war on terror should move beyond the names of soldiers that have died on the battlefield, to include the names of the victims for whom the war has been waged in the first place. The Veterans Memorial Gold Star Healing and Peace Garden is a very fitting example of a monument that could be dedicated to those victims that have died innocently and tragically throughout the world. You can help bring such a memorial to reality by clicking the link below and signing the petition.
You can help promote the establishment of a monument dedicated to all American victims of terrorism, whether they died at home or abroad, by clicking the link above and signing the petition. Nothing is asked but your signature for a good cause.