Honored wall is labor of love

HOWLAND – Bud Luman fought back tears while recalling the special meaning that Memorial Day has for him.

”May we never forget the sacrifice. Remember the POWs and MIAs. Remember them in harm’s way – today. They deserve our support,” Luman told a gathering Monday in Howland Township Cemetery.

Luman, current commander of Post 700 of the American Legion, also had a special assignment during the occasion.

”Their deeds are an inspiration,” he said, while dedicating a three-paneled Wall of Honor that holds the names of 1,568 local members of the military who gave their lives during World War II.

The finely-finished combination artwork and memorial is a labor of love of Navy vet and pastor David Luther of Christ Memorial Baptist Church, who also serves as the chaplain of Post 700, where members hosted an open house later in the day.

”Today we come with humble heart, moistened eye and profound thankfulness, realizing that our country’s greatness is sometimes carried on the shoulders of 18- and 19-year-olds, led by those in their 20s and 30s. We remember those who gave their last full measure of devotion. On land, in the air, or at sea, they were proven and found to be faithful. Some are still missing and it is our prayer that they could be brought back to their native land. Families who carry the memory of a fallen loved one need your comfort today,” Luther reminded the gathering in his invocation.

It was Luther and special guest speaker Chief Warrant Officer Michael Hudson of the U.S. Marine Corps who captured the importance of Memorial Day in short vignettes.

Hudson, who supervises a staff of nine at the local Air Reserve Station, retold the story of Miles Eckhart, the 8-year-old boy who was lucky enough to find a $20 bill on the ground outside a Cracker Barrel Restaurant near Toledo in February.

After the boy gave it plenty of thought and bypassed the idea of spending the money on food or the latest toy on the market, he borrowed a sticky note and attached it to the currency that was passed on to a uniformed veteran eating with his family inside the restaurant.

The note introduced young Eckhart as the son of a soldier who was now in heaven. ”But, we like to pay it forward in my family,” the note said, according to Hudson.

Hudson said the boy never got to know his father, Sgt. Andy Eckhart, who was killed in 2005 by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

Likewise, Luther pointed out the name of Charles Brown as one of the veterans from Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties on the Wall of Honor set up at the site of Monday’s ceremonies.

”You wouldn’t think of Charlie Brown as a veteran who gave his life during World War II,” Luther said.

But, he also said the name Charles Brown Jr. appears on another wall that marks the war deaths from Vietnam and Iraq/Afghanistan.

”Junior was born in 1944 and I think in Mahoning County like Senior. I wonder if he ever knew his father,” Luther said.

The WW II wall will be among exhibits at the June 6 program at Champion High School auditorium that marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Luther credits Niles artist Dan Nagy and students at Trumbull Career and Technical Center with constructing all three of the walls, including one for Korean War vets.