CHILLICOTHE — About 1,000 people stood solemnly around a long wall that read “Freedom is not free,” on the 240th anniversary of the nation's birth. Beneath their feet were red bricks in the shape of a star, engraved with names and memories of veterans past and present.
“This will be a place where the stories of our veterans fit into our history,” Chillicothe Mayor Doug Crew said to the crowd gathered Monday afternoon at the new veterans memorial located across from Pearce Community Center.
Tom Harms a Vietnam Army veteran who served from 1969 to 1970, said the project — funded by enraved brick purchases and donations from the community — cost almost $400,000.
Since the memorial’s planning committee started raising money in 2014, they have sold 1,200 bricks, he said, announcing plans for a second phase in which they hope to expand the memorial into a ribbon that wraps around the wall and flagpoles.
Harms said the small bricks cost $65 and larger bricks cost $115.
James Pesch, who was active in the Marine Corps from 1965 to 1996, said as designer of the memorial he put a lot of thought into every detail of the project, which also features flagpoles, benches and statues.
The statues depict two soldiers facing one another. One a modern-day combat soldier and the other a Revolutionary War-era soldier.
“July Fourth is a time to reflect on the country and the direction the country’s going in,” he said.
Pesch said even the veins on the modern soldier’s hands were enlarged to make it more representative of the prominent number of farmers-turned-soldiers in the community, whose veins are often pronounced.
After a number of speakers recounted their own military experiences and fondness for the community’s support, anyone in the crowd who’d lost a loved one in the military was invited to come to the center of the memorial as the statues were unveiled.
Midge Sarver of Chillicothe uncovered the battlefield cross, which featured a pair of boots next to an upright gun with a helmet appearing to balance on top, symbolic of fallen soldiers.
Sarver’s brother, Everett Cameron, joined the Army right out of high school, and was killed shortly after he began fighting in World War II.
Cameron died in the Battle of the Bulge after volunteering to be one of the first men to cross a field where there was threat of mines, she said.
He was buried in France.
Sarver said, in a way, today’s dedication felt a little like closure.
“It made us all stop and think,” she said. “It was a really beautiful ceremony.”
Anna Spoerre can be reached at 686-3196 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @annaspoerre.