On 9/11, David Keuhner was scheduled to travel on American Airlines Flight 77, the plane that ended up crashing into the Pentagon killing all 59 people on board.
Instead, his plans changed that day and he traveled on another plane which landed safely in Nashville.
“Call it fate or luck, but I had to do something bigger than myself after that experience,” he said on the 19th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001.
Twenty months ago, Keuhner, owner of Lovettsville’s One Family Brewery, had a vision to bring the first Gold Star Families Memorial to northern Virginia. His vision was brought to fruition this Sept. 11 at an unveiling ceremony on Route 287 in Lovettsville.
“This is your memorial. It happens to be on our property but you are welcome here anytime,” Keuhner told a crowd of about 200 people.
Keuhner’s support team throughout the memorial planning project included dozens of Gold Star families, local support from Ashburn-based Luck Stone and Matt Simpson from Amazing Outdoors, as well as his friends and family.
Together, they raised more than $50,000 in 14 months.
World War II veteran and Gold Medal recipient Hershel “Woody” Williams started the Gold Star Families monuments nonprofit to recognize and honor families who were left behind after their loved ones died while in service.
“They are why we are here ... and there is no spirit in the world like the American spirit,” Williams said. “Untold young and old will look upon this memorial and know it took sacrifice. It makes me so proud that I can say I am an American. We won’t forget and we never will.”
Williams’ nonprofit has dedicated 64 monuments across the U.S., with 76 more in progress, he said.
Gold Star son Mike Ryan, whose father, First Lt. William Ryan, was killed in action in Vietnam, spoke about the importance of the memorial to Gold Star families.
“This memorial is all about never forgetting,” Ryan said. “It is so impactful. We are honoring those that made the ultimate sacrifice, but also their families who they loved so dearly. We are resilient and we come together to pick each other up. This honors the legacy of our fallen heroes and raises awareness so we continue to honor Gold Star families. Get involved, stay proud and know your loved ones live on in you.”
United States Medal of Honor recipient Clint Romesha, who served with Specialist Stephan Mace, a Purcellville resident who died in combat in Afghanistan, thanked Keuhner for the memorial.
“There are sayers and doers. The doers are the ones that get things done. David, my friend, you are a doer. Thank you. We reflect on memorials like this to make sure we never forget,” he said.
Brigadier Gen. David Morse, who serves in the U.S. Marine Corps, spoke about the importance of bringing people together for the memorial.
“When people drive by here, they will remember. What a remarkable legacy you have left our community and nation. Freedom is not free, and we learned that here on the home front on 9/11,” Morse noted.
After the ceremony, the monument was unveiled and Gold Star family members placed flowers and photos at the site in memory of their loved ones.
Vanessa Adelson, mother of Stephan Mace, said she has always felt honored by the community in Loudoun County and was grateful to have the monument for all of the Gold Star families to visit.
“Dave has always been there for Gold Star families at any time and this land represents a safe place for Gold Star families and veterans to come,” she said.