Lynn Romans wore a Gold Star pin on her white jacket to the ceremony re-dedication of the former Jane K. Beshear Capitol Education Center.
The Gold Star pin is awarded to immediate family of service members who have lost their lives in conflict. Romans lost her son, Darrin Potter, who was a member of the Kentucky National Guard and served as a military policeman in Iraq before he drowned in a canal after a vehicle he was riding in came under fire.
“Every gold star pin has a story...” Romans said. “I have often seen great strength behind these Gold Star pins.”
Romans was the lynchpin in a ceremony that linked respecting and honoring the families of fallen soldiers with the desire to educate Kentucky’s children about sacrifices made by the military. Gov. Matt Bevin praised the sacrifices of Gold Star families and stressed his desire to educate children about those sacrifices.
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But the ceremony also contained an undercurrent of political drama.
A few feet away from the podium where Romans told her story hung a new plaque honoring the contributions made by former first lady Jane Beshear, who raised $250,000 to create the education center from the formerly unused heating and cooling facility.
Former Gov. Steve Beshear surprised his wife by naming the building after her. But in July, the Bevin administration removed all traces of her name from the building.
Finance and Administration Cabinet Secretary William Landrum said the name change was his idea.
“It was my initiative,” Landrum, who served in the U.S. Army for 30 years, said. “When I looked around the Capitol campus and I saw no place did we recognize the fallen and no place did we recognize military families of those who have served and no place where children would regularly visit. And this was an absolutely perfect building to be able to do that.”
But at the Capitol, many chalked it up as part of the feud between Bevin and Beshear. Both have called the other’s administration corrupt, and Beshear’s son, Attorney General Andy Beshear, has taken Bevin to court for some of the decisions Bevin’s administration has made.
Landrum made a point in his speech to recognize the work done by Jane Beshear and publicly thanked her for her effort.
“My mom doesn’t worry about her legacy,” said Andy Beshear before the event. “She sees a problem she wants to address and she addresses it. If you know Jane Beshear, she’s not personally worried about her name being on anything, that’s an honor that my Dad decided to bestow for all of her work. She just wants to do the right thing each and every day.”
After Bevin presented two mothers with Gold Star lapel pins, he helped unveil two new signs for the building, which will now be called the Kentucky Capitol Education Center honoring Gold Star Families.
The administration also unveiled new signs in the hallway leading into the building, which explain what a Gold Star family is and pays respect to the branches of the U.S. Military. Landrum said the new additions cost less than $2,000 to redesign.