It might not be easy to put up new signs along a state highway, but designating the Sunbury exit with a sign pointing the way to the Ohio Fallen Heroes Memorial was a top priority for Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) officials.
Ohio Fallen Heroes Memorial committee member Darrin Klinger approached the deputy director at ODOT District 6 a few weeks ago about having signs installed on the highway denoting that the memorial is off the Sunbury exit at Interstate 71.
“Putting a sign up on the freeway is not easy,” said Ferzan M. Ahmed, deputy director of ODOT District 6. “There was no doubt in everybody’s mind that this was something we were going to do.
“Our fallen heroes represent the best we have to offer as human beings,” Ahmed continued. “These men and women serve us, defend us and give of themselves unselfishly.”
The official unveiling was scheduled Wednesday just days before the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks
The Ohio Fallen Heroes Memorial, established in 2005, is dedicated to Ohio military personnel who lost their lives while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan in America’s war against terrorism.
Participating in Wednesday’s unveiling of the new, brown signs in both directions on Interstate 71 were United States Army Sgt. Maj. James Mooney, Ohio Fallen Heroes Memorial Founder Jerry Jodrey and Ohio Department of Veterans Services Assistant Director Jason Dominguez.
Mooney’s grandson, the late Zach Myers, was killed in 2009 when his convoy was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. A second Delaware County resident, Shannon Smith, also died in the same attack.
Two other soldiers from Delaware County are represented by the white marble markers at the Sunbury memorial, Justin Hoffman of Delaware and Anthony Kinslow of Genoa Township, were both killed in 2005.
Dominguez, an Iraq veteran himself, briefly spoke before the unveiling and said the Fallen Heroes Memorial is a nice feature for surviving soldiers to visit.
“Many soldiers I have fought with are represented in the memorial,” Dominguez said. “In combat, we don’t get the experience of grief. We would see a helicopter fly away, and we would come back and see who was missing. Our grief consisted of packing the soldier’s belongings in a box and sending them to the family. It’s nice to have a memorial we can come to and pay our respects and pay tribute.”
Andrew Brenner (R-Ohio), 2nd district state representative, Sunbury Village Mayor Len Weatherby both attended Wednesday’s ceremony and provided brief remarks. Other dignitaries present included Sunbury Village Administrator Dave Martin and Village Councilman Tom Hatfield.