That’s what retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Angelo Nuzzo, a member of the Ohio Flags of Honor, said during Friday’s opening ceremony.
Starting Friday, more than 350 local residents had the honor of placing flags with one name of someone who passed away while enlisted during the Ohio Flags of Honor. This event was held at Central Park, 215 North St. in Bellevue, for the second time since 2015.
The memorial included more than 800 flags, with 299 of them representing military members from Ohio. The 3-feet by 5-feet flags were on 10-foot poles. The memorial honors the men and women of the military who served in Iraq, Afghanistan and during the global war on terror.
The Ohio Flags of Honor began in May 2004 when Gino and Lisa Gimmer, of Galion, were notified on Memorial Day that their son, Army specialist Nicholaus E. Zimmer, had been killed in Kufa, Iraq. Gino Gimmer wanted to do something to honor and remember his son and others.
“My son’s death was a miracle and tragedy rolled into one. He died and it hurt, but look at what he has created,” he said.
The opening ceremony included several military speakers including Nuzzo, Master Sgt. Brad Mira and Sgt. 1st Class Jerry Risner, both of the Army.
Nuzzo talked about the effects the Ohio Flags of Honor have had on him and others around him. He also discussed the three things that the ceremony represents.
“We’re here to honor our fallen heroes, let the families know that we are grateful and that we will do everything that we can as a community or state to never forget them. This is really a healing memorial,” Nuzzo said.
Mira told stories about his deployment and the people he met.
“We live in the greatest nation where everyone wants to come here and we have this status because of the 299 soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice. Not only do we get to enjoy our freedoms, but other nations can enjoy these too. These heroes gave their lives for that freedom,” he said.
During the placing of the flags, David Claus, a prosecutor in Bellevue, and Dennis Sabo, of The Bellevue Hospital whose father was a Vietnam veteran, read the names of the fallen soldiers. Each time a name was read, a member of the Northern Ohio FOOLS (Fraternal Order of Leatherheads Society) rang a bell.
Among the speakers, the opening ceremony also included a dove release and riderless horse ceremony. The riderless horse performed a circuit around the battlefield cross to represent that a soldier is no longer there.
Heather and Laura Martin released the doves in honor of their brother and son, John Martin, among others who died.
“The doves symbolize all the fallen heroes and hopes and prayers so their blessings can rise to the skies on wings of white,” Nuzzo said.
Other ceremonies that took place were a bagpipe rendition of “Amazing Grace” by John McGlashan, of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, a rifle salute and patriotic songs by country singer Ricky Lee.
Everyone who put on the event was happy about the doubled turnout since years prior. They also said they were proud to be representing the Ohio Flags of Honor in Bellevue.
“This is honoring veterans and it’s what I am dedicating my life to. My brother and I have been instrumental in bringing this to Bellevue twice and Norwalk once and we just love our veterans and we would do anything for them,” said Donn Rospert, a board member and retired Marine.