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Monument honors war heroes



Published: Tue, May 31, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Family members of soldiers killed in action unveiled the six stainless steel frames.

By PEGGY SINKOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

HERMITAGE, Pa. -- It was another day of healing for the family members of those killed fighting terror.

But, on Memorial Day 2005, they were joined by hundreds who came to Hillcrest Memorial Park, East State Street, to honor the fallen heroes and get a glimpse of the newly opened War on Terror Memorial.

"This is letting the families know that people do care," said Bill Tomko, uncle of Sgt. Nick Tomko, 24, of McCandless, Pa., who died in Iraq, Nov. 9, 2003. "We are not alone."

Tomko and family members of others who died fighting the war on terror unveiled the six stainless steel frames, 12 feet tall by 4 feet wide, and then began searching for the names of their loved ones.

The six stainless steel frames stand in a semicircle around the center fountain. The first 2 feet of the towers are stainless steel; above are five glass panels, 2 feet high by 4 feet wide. Etched in the dark glass are names of all killed in action.

Tom Flynn, president of the War on Terror Foundation and owner of Hillcrest Memorial Park, said the memorial will be kept current with new names etched on it each week.

"No disrespect meant, but I told the man who etches the names in the glass that I hope he is soon out of business," said James Kolegraf, grandfather of Sgt. Michael A. Marzano, 28, of Greenville, Pa., who died May 7 in Iraq.

Since 1975

The memorial will commemorate not only the military personnel who have died in the war on terror, but all who have died fighting terrorism since 1975.

Family members of Sgt. Chad Keith, 21, of Batesville, Ind., Spc. Jonathan Kephart, 21, of Oil City, Pa., and Spc. Clint Matthews, 31, of Bedford, Pa., also attended Monday morning's ceremony. The men were killed while serving in Iraq.

"We need to carry this day with us, so we do not forget the price of freedom," said Maj. Gen. Karol Kennedy, commanding general of the 99th Regional Readiness Command of Oakdale, Pa., who was the keynote speaker. "These soldiers paid the ultimate price."

Monument

The steel and glass monument is located in the heart of 444 U.S. flags, which commemorate each day of the Iranian hostage crisis of November 1979 to January 1981.

The memorial is part of the War on Terror Foundation, a nonprofit organization and educational resource honoring those who gave their lives to preserve freedom. The foundation is not connected to the government or military and receives its funding from donors.

Flynn said the memorial was built so that all Americans remember those who died.

"They died so we could all be free," Flynn said.

The first name etched in the glass is Col. Paul R. Shaffer, killed in 1975. The eight service members killed trying to rescue the American hostages in the Iranian Hostage Crisis in 1979-80 and the 82 service members who died at the Pentagon in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks are included, Flynn said.

He also said there are 2,256 names on the monument and the most recent names were added May 21. As of Wednesday, 60 service members have died this month and 344 have died this year in the war on terror, Flynn said.

"We will not forget them," he said.

The foundation also created a Web site, www.WarOnTerror.org, with biographies, pictures, and audio and video clips from those who have died.

The monument is the first phase of the project and cost about $1 million, Flynn said. Total cost will be about $5 million.

The monument was made by local companies and everything was donated, or given at cost or below, he explained.

IKM Inc. of Pittsburgh designed and constructed the monuments for $300,000. Flynn said Hillcrest donated the two acres, Wesex Construction of West Middlesex, Pa., donated the steel frames, and Warren Glass and Paint of Warren sold the glass at cost or below.

sinkovich@vindy.com




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