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Dedication set for Ohio Fallen Heroes Memorial

A dedication ceremony is scheduled Saturday afternoon in Sunbury for the Ohio Fallen Heroes Memorial. Located near the intersection of State Routes 36/37 and Route 3, the new memorial honors those who died in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Dump trucks and semis rumble by just a few feet from the monument that marks the entrance to the memorial park, but there's a calm over this ground that befits its purpose.

An older volunteer drops to his knees with some effort, and goes to work gently cleaning one of 35 white, granite crosses. Yellow ribbons edge the arched, wooden walk bridge across a tiny creek called Prairie Run.

A dozen men and a woman are working to put up a large, Army tent in preparation for tomorrow's event. The first tent is up and the second is underway when Jerry Jodrey arrives with coffee and donuts. Jodrey is president of the Ohio Fallen Heroes and the one who originated the idea of a memorial and park.

He says the memorial is for the families and the sacrifice they have given along with their sons and daughters. Jodrey says the park is also for the residents of the state of Ohio.

The memorial includes 35 white granite crosses, one for each of the first 35 Ohioans to die in Afghanistan and Iraq. By next year, Jodrey says they have to have a cross for each Ohio who has died in battle since September 11th. The number today is 124.

This memorial is personal to Jodrey who has a grandson serving in Iraq. Jodrey is a veteran of VietNam, another war that stirred controversy in the U-S

"You may or may not be for the war but you have to support the troops," Jodrey says. "I felt same way when I was in Viet Nam. But we didn't know what was going on till we got home. Soldiers today know. They have a special place in my heart."

Emerging from beneath a mass of green canvas that will become a tent, Sunbury Village Administrator Mike O'Brien says the Ohio Fallen Heroes Memorial has the full support of the community.

The village of Sunbury is patriotic," O'Brien smiles. "It's heartwarming to see the people coming out, offering to help, saying just put us to work."

O'Brien wears a cap that says "Hoorah It's an Army thing." He is vice president of the Ohio Fallen Heroes Memorial and explains that the entire project is funded by private donations.

"This is not a Sunbury park. This is an Ohio memorial. We're honored to host this site. It is truly for all the families in Ohio who've lost loved ones in this conflict."

When they arrive tomorrow for the dedication of the memorial, the gold star mothers and families who have lost loved ones in Afghanistan and Iraq will likely pause before a small, granite monument. At the monument's base is written: "In remembrance of those who have fallen in the war on terrorism."

The top of the monument is in the shape of the state of Ohio. It features the face of a bald eagle who's piercing eyes seem to patrol the area.

"You're looking at an eagle that's very proud. It sets the tone for the entire memorial."

Inscribed around the eagle's head are the words, "The nation which forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten."