Gold Star Memorial Pays Tribute To Severna Park Soldiers

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Along the B&A Trail, and across from Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church, now sits a gazebo and memorial in honor of Eric Kavanagh, William “Taylor” Wild IV, Eric Herzberg and Nathaniel McDavitt — four Severna Park heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Their sacrifices, along with the completion of the gazebo, were recognized during a ceremony on September 11.

“This structure is important because it’s a visible, public manifestation of our commitment to never forget that sacrifice,” said retired colonel Mark Mitchell, former acting assistant defense secretary for special operations and low-intensity conflict for the U.S. Department of Defense. “And it represents the fulfillment of that very same promise to these Gold Star families who are here with us today. You, too, have sacrificed and we owe you our gratitude and honor also.”

A plaque for each of the four heroes surrounds the gazebo.

Private First Class Eric Kavanaugh died in September 2006 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee during combat operations in Iraq. The 20-year-old enjoyed fishing, swimming, boating and playing guitar.

Lance Corporal Eric Herzberg was also 20 when he died while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. A member of the Severn River Rugby Club, he was an avid video gamer and a fan of Irish and patriotic country music.

Lance Corporal William “Taylor” Wild IV was at Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada, training for his third deployment, when he died in 2013. The 21-year-old was a former Severna Park High School baseball player and a “Harry Potter” fan.

Airman First Class Nathaniel McDavitt was in an Afghanistan building that collapsed in April 2016. The 22-year-old played football and basketball at SPHS, was an Eagle Scout, and was an active community volunteer who enjoyed fishing and hunting.

Tom Chisholm explained that the memorial idea was born from conversation between himself and friends Tom Lindsay and Kevin Kavanaugh, Eric’s father.

“We started this project on August 10 and worked seven days a week until we had it built,” Chisholm said. “We did the pavers first and the concrete and then we ordered the building after we collected enough money. We set a high budget, but we were able to get as close as we could to it … we were fortunate to get some government donations and grants. The response we had from both the private and public sector has been great.

“We built this so it’s totally accessible to B&A Trail users,” Chisholm added. “We want people to come in, visit, reflect, and it’s a tribute to all soldiers even though we simply pointed out four.”

Kevin Kavanaugh said the committee looked at existing monuments at the Naval Academy in Annapolis and others, until the Anne Arundel County Department of Recreation and Parks graciously offered a gazebo that was “dilapidated, falling apart.”

“We’re all members of the American Legion Post 175, and that facilitated our ability to fundraise,” he said. “Everybody chipped in and called friends, neighbors and businesses, and it took several thousand dollars to build this. This is not a homebuilt wood structure. This is all pre-engineered steel. We meant it to last forever and it will.”

William Wild II, Taylor’s grandfather, became emotional when talking about the ceremony. William remembers the advice he gave Taylor upon his enlistment.

“I spent my four years in the Marine Corps, and I told him it was a great experience and take it for what it’s worth,” he said. “It’s a growing experience. You’re going to learn a lot, and be the best you can be, and he did. He never ceased to amaze me, and he was always smiling.”

The memorial honors service men and women who were active duty when they were killed in harm’s way during operations in either Afghanistan or Iraq.

“We can add,” Kevin Kavanaugh said, “but God forbid we have to.”

Chisholm was proud of the turnout, which he attributed to the “cause and the dedication.” It was especially rewarding to see the reaction of the families, including his friend Kevin Kavanaugh.

“To watch a man lose his two sons, one to cancer and one as a soldier, that’s tough,” Chisholm said. “So to give back, to do this, it’s nothing. It was easy to do.”

To make a donation or to learn more about the Gold Star memorial, visit www.heroesofsevernapark.com.

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