‘Gone but never forgotten’

Sun Life Heroes 4

SUNBURY — In the Village of Sunbury sits a little-known memorial founded in 2005 by Vietnam veteran Jerry Jodrey — the Ohio Fallen Heroes Memorial.

Jodrey, who was shot twice in Vietnam, said that after 9/11 terrorists attacks on America, he knew something had to be done to honor the men and women of Ohio who gave their lives in the War on Terror for their bravery.

Jodrey’s vision became reality and was dedicated 10 years ago — on June 30, 2007 — in Sunbury. A resolution from the Ohio House of Representatives notes that it is the state’s only memorial honoring all Ohio military personnel killed in the War on Terrorism.

Why Sunbury? “Because it is centrally located within Ohio, and is easily accessible from all major highways,” Jodrey said.

“There is no other one (memorial) like it in the state,” he said.

The memorial was built at 79 1/2 W. Cherry St., about a 2 1/2-hour drive from Warren. Seasonal flowers in a well-landscaped garden welcome visitors at the entrance to the memorial as they emerge from a short, wooden bridge that stretches over a shallow, trickling stream.

Past the garden stand long rows of white, marble crosses stand erect, each bearing the name of a serviceman or woman, the branch of service, and date of death. The number of crosses totals 286 and continues to rise.

Among the crosses is one engraved with the name of Army Sgt. Robert M. Carr of Warren, who lost his life on March 13, 2007, in Baghdad, when an improvised explosive device detonated beneath the armored vehicle he was driving.

He had been assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, Fort Carson, Colo.

Continuing up and down the rows of freshly cleaned crosses reveals yet other locals, from the Trumbull and Mahoning county areas, who made the ultimate sacrifice defending their country in the global War on Terrorism:

l Army Lt. Col. Dominic R. Bargona, 42, of Niles, died May 19, 2003 in Iraq when his Humvee collided with a jackknifed tractor-trailer;

l Army Sgt. Larry R. Kuhns Jr., 24, Austintown, died June 13, 2005 in Ramadi, Iraq, when his military vehicle came under a grenade attack while conducting combat operations;

l Army Chief Warrant Officer Donald V. Clark, 37, Boardman, died Nov. 15, 2008, when the OH-58 Kuewa Warrior helicopter he was in crashed during a mission over the northern Iraqi city of Mosul;

l Army Staff Sgt. Elvis R. Bourdon, 36, Youngstown, died Sept. 6, 2004, in Baghdad, Iraq, when his military vehicle was attacked by enemy forces using small arms fire and grenades.

A gentle breeze begins to blow as the journey continues up the red brick walkway. Each brick was placed through many hours of labor donated by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion and the people of Sunbury. An archway over VFW Post 8736 in Sunbury, where Jodrey is post commander, reads “Home of the Fallen Heroes Memorial.”

Jodrey said he refused to accept any government funding for the Ohio Fallen Heroes Memorial. It is funded by donations only.

The village of Sunbury donated the land. The Delaware Masonic Lodge helped build a chapel, which is framed by in the front by four white pillars.

An Eternal Flame burns continuously as it stands tall in the center of the courtyard.

Visitors’ journeys come to a solemn end as they walk onto the large brick courtyard. Some of the bricks have names, branches and dates of death of military personnel who made the ultimate sacrifice. Among the rows of Ohio soldiers being honored by engraved bricks, there are still more being added each year by loved ones who have lost a spouse, father or sibling. There is even a brick of a loved one from the Civil War.

On the left of the chapel, statues stand against the heat of the midday sun. Each one holds a reminder of the courage and sacrifice these young men and women made for our freedom — the flags rising high above acknowledge all branches of service, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and the Coast Guard.

Neil Kruse, treasurer of the memorial, said, “Our goal is to make sure the people honored here are never forgotten. The sacrifice each of them made is worth the effort to remember them.”