Officials in Hatboro took note last August when Charlie and Mary Strange brought fellow Gold Star families to Miller Meadow as part of the Michael Strange Foundation’s annual weekend workshop.
U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Strange, a cryptologist on SEAL Team 6, died in August 2011 when his helicopter was shot down by the Taliban in Afghanistan. In all, 30 Americans and eight Afghans were killed, along with a SEAL dog. Strange, 25, was a Wissinoming native and 2004 graduate of North Catholic.
Charlie Strange, Michael’s father, started the foundation, with the help of his wife Mary and others.
“No one wants a Gold Star,” he said.
After witnessing the foundation’s visit, Hatboro officials decided to create a Gold Star family garden in Miller Meadow, located on York Road.
“That was the inspiration for this entire project,” said George Bollendorf, president of Hatboro Council and a 1988 North Catholic graduate.
On Saturday, Armed Forces Day, there was a groundbreaking ceremony for the garden. A dedication ceremony is set for Sept. 25.
“This might be the first Gold Star garden in the country,” said Charlie Strange, who lives in Hatboro.
The Hatboro-Horsham Women’s Chamber Ensemble sang the national anthem. Others in attendance included Hatboro Mayor Tim Schultz, state Sen. Maria Collett, state Rep. Nancy Guenst and members of the Patriot Alliance motorcycle club.
Strange believes the location is perfect because Gen. George Washington spent time in Hatboro during the Revolutionary War and the Battle of Crooked Billet took place nearby. Also, the gazebo in Miller Meadow last year was dedicated in memory of John Kulick, former deputy chief of the Enterprise Fire Company who was killed in Iraq in 2005.
The garden is being funded by brick sales and donations and will feature a walkway of engraved bricks, a soldier’s cross statue, benches honoring each branch of the military, flowers, a wall and a flagpole holding American and Gold Star flags. The Michael Strange Foundation is sponsoring the Navy bench.
Charlie Strange hopes the garden helps people understand who Gold Star families are. He recalled being at Arlington National Cemetery, where his son is buried, and the security guard did not understand his “Gold Star Dad” front license plate.
Strange said he has relied on people like Bryn Athyn’s Grant and Kim Smith to deal with the pain of losing a loved one in service. The Smiths’ son, Tristan, was killed in Iraq in 2006. They are looking forward to the garden being completed.
“It’s so nice to have a garden that is living to realize these men are still living in our hearts,” Kim Smith said. ••
Brick donations are $100. To buy one, call 215-443-9100 or go to the Hatboro Gold Star Garden page on Facebook. Also, a beef and beer will be held on Friday, June 10, from 7-11 p.m. at Warminster VFW Post 6493, 645 Louis Drive, Warminster. The cost is $40 and includes live music, food, beer and wine. For tickets, call 215-443-9100.