The new Wood County Veterans Memorial Square ensures that the ultimate sacrifice for freedom will not be forgotten.
The renovated memorial was unveiled at the Wood County Courthouse on Saturday during the Ohio Patriots’ Day ceremony.
âAs we come together today, we can ensure that a new generation understands the ability within each of us, to stand side by side as we fulfill our collective pledge to never forget,â said Greg Robinette, commanding officer of Bowling Green American Legion Post 45 and master of ceremonies.
David Ridenour, who heads local and national veterans organizations and was instrumental in renovating the memorial, said the reference to Vietnam meant a lot.
âBeing a Vietnam veteran, when I came home we were not made well at home. We put our uniforms away and moved on with our lives, âhe said. âIn November 82, the consecration of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, I had to be there, and it was my awakening.
âSince then, our mission has been to honor and remember those we have lost in service. It means a lot, that we can keep their memories alive, that they are not forgotten.
Father Tom McQuillen, pastor of St. Aloysius Catholic Church, blessed the monuments.
âMay they long bear witness to the ultimate sacrifice,â he said. âThere is no greater love than to lay down your life for another.
âMay these monuments help us never to forget those who paid so dearly to make freedom our heritage. “
Wood County Commissioner Doris Herringshaw recalled the May 2019 ceremony honoring Edward C. Byers Jr. of the US Navy held at the Veterans Memorial Site. The Medal of Honor recipient is credited with rescuing an American doctor held hostage in Afghanistan.
The area was no longer suited to such important ceremonies, Herringshaw recalls.
âOur veterans memorial had seen better days,â she said. âA lot of improvements were needed to make it an inviting place to visit, while properly recognizing the brave residents of the county who made the ultimate sacrifice. “
That fall, fundraising began for the $ 400,000 renovation project.
Poggemeyer Design Group donated services for the design. Former company CEO Jack Jones chaired the Wood County Memorial Committee.
Jones, who served in the Ohio National Guard, said it was important to restore memorials to their former glory and create a plaza, with special lighting, dedicated fencing, boardwalks, landscaping landscaped, patios and flag poles.
Saturday’s opening took place in a bustling Bowling Green – with the Black Swamp Arts Festival gaining momentum a few blocks away and a 9/11 ceremony wrapping up in City Park.
A crowd of a few hundred people applauded with the Wood County Veterans Memorial High School Band, sang the national anthem and solemnly viewed the American flag hoisted.
Brian Myers, of the local Eastwood schools and group principal, said he immediately said yes to the 50-member organization from Eastwood, Lake, North Baltimore and Rossford high schools.
âMusic plays such an important role in ceremonies and important events, that I knew we had to form a county band,â Myers said. âIt means a lot to these students to be a part of Wood County history. “
The group trained together for about an hour before the ceremony, said Myers, who added that he was assisted by Thomas Headley, the retired group principal at Bowling Green High School.
An old, bright yellow US Navy biplane was part of an overflight by Bill Hirzel. A display of historic military vehicles, provided by John Cheney and Tom Price, filled Court Street.
Robinette noted the three local historians who diligently researched the names of the memorials: Hal Brown, who is the retired publisher of the Town Sentinel-Tribune; Joe Boyle, former Sentinel columnist, author and teacher; and Ridenour.
âTheir research has been invaluable,â Robinette said.
Most of the monuments have been renovated. The World War I and World War II memorial debuted 71 years ago.
The Civil War Monument was initially dedicated in April 2015, the Korean War Monument in July 1994, and the Vietnam War Monument in 1998.
The Medal of Honor monument was inaugurated in 2012.
The Persian Gulf Memorial is new and recognizes the sacrifices of Iraq, Afghanistan and the global war on terror.
The new Memorial of Honor and Remembrance honors those who died while serving outside an active combat zone.
The Gold Star monument is the third new one.
Wreaths of gold, red, white and blue flowers were displayed near each monument.
World War II veteran Raymond Hoepf of Bowling Green attended the ceremony with his sons Tom and Todd. Another son, Terry, was in the honor guard for Saturday’s ceremony.
Hoepf, 97, served in the US Navy and still vividly remembers the suffering he witnessed in Iwo Jima. He said he was overwhelmed with community support on Saturday.
Inspired by 9/11, Camp shares its service story
The keynote speaker at the unveiling ceremony for the renovated Wood County Veterans Memorial plaza said the dedication, which took place on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, could not have been be more appropriate.
“What better way to celebrate Patriot Day than by remembering our patriots,” said Maj. Gen. James R. Camp, Assistant Adjutant General of the Air, Ohio National Guard.
Camp was at the heart of the September 11 attacks, which ultimately changed the course of his life and service.
On September 9, 2001, he was at the end of a 10-year service appointment.
“My intention was to tender my resignation,” he said, adding that he was also a pilot for United Airlines.
On the morning of September 11, upon entering Rickenbacker Air Force Base in Columbus, he heard of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon.
“When the second plane hit, almost immediately we all knew it was a game changer, that it was a deliberate attack,” Camp said.
The squadron commander entered the flight room and instructed them to grab a co-pilot and boom operator and head towards the Pentagon.
âWe took off in about 19 minutes, which is the fastest time I have ever managed to get this plane off the ground. It usually takes about an hour to make a good pre-flight.
As they took off, a controller told the crew that it was likely the only aircraft east of the Mississippi, in addition to the 180th Fighter Wing, based in Toledo.
As they approached the Pentagon, they could see the smoke rising.
Camp said it was around this time that they realized they were gone so quickly that they forgot their crypto communications equipment.
“So I couldn’t authenticate who I was on 9/11, flying over Washington, DC. It was an uncomfortable moment.”
They were allowed to lower their booms and refuel the F-16s.
âAs we walked back to Rickenbacker, we were discussing in the cockpit how this was going to change everything,â Camp said.
âI think the reason I was considering taking the uniform off is because I never really got a pat on the shoulder for doing much,â he said. “Be careful what you wish for.”
Right after they landed, he walked into the squad room and punched his commander’s desk with his fist.
“I’ll tell you what, we’re gonna go to war over this and you better call me,” Camp told him.
His unit was tasked with recapturing Turkey’s northern no-fly zone, which he did for a year.
âShortly after that, many of us got what I call the ’72 hour phone call’, where we were called on a Saturday night, and they said ‘we are going to invade Iraq in 2003. and oh, by the way, you’re leaving on Monday.â¦ you go to an unknown place for a year. Are you in or are you out? ‘
âIt’s really inspiring: they had more volunteers to do, with 48 hours’ notice, than they had seats. “
Camp decided to continue his military career and quit flying for United.
“It was just an amazing trip and unfortunately I don’t believe this trip is over.”
Part of the reason Camp shared his story is to focus on recruiting for the service, which he says is on the decline. He called on veteran audiences to take over as well.
âI ask you to share your stories in your community, to try to reach these young people, to help them discover the value of service,â he said. “We have an obligation to continue to support freedom and democracy.”