By Elise Franco
The patriotism was palpable as hundreds of people gathered at Quaker Steak and Lube here to pay tribute to local servicemen and -women.
Thursday’s annual Patriots Day Bike Nite began with Sky Diver Captain and Youngstown firefighter Jim Drummond jumping from a plane, an American flag fixed to the back of his gear and fire helmet atop his head.
Tom Mock, communications director at General Motors Lordstown, served as master of ceremonies.
“These honorees represent a special part of American history,” he said. “They truly are a dignified group with tremendous integrity.”
Lt. Col. John Boccieri and Vietnam veteran Leo Connelly Jr. presented honors to the families of two fallen soldiers, as well as 13 living servicemen, as Mock read a short history and list of accomplishments for each one.
Andy Frost Jr., retired Austintown Fire Chief; Donald Scott, Army and Youngstown Police Department; Bob Bishop, Navy; George Gresko, Army Air Force; James Mariano, Army; John Prochak, Army Ranger; Kenneth David, Army; Roger Ackley, Air Force; Anthony Tisler, Marine Corps; Bob Bakalik, Army; Harold Baringer, Army; Herman Breuer, Army National Guard; Robert Carr, Army, killed in action in 2007; and Donald V. Clark, Army and Navy, killed in action in 2008.
While honoring Tisler, Mock read a quote that the Vietnam veteran gave, “It was either play football or go to war. I went to war. I’m not sorry I went to Vietnam. I was proud to go, fight for my country and be a Marine.”
The presentation to Carr’s mother, Chris Wortman, and Clark’s mother, Linda Clark, were especially emotional as the large crowd of on-lookers applauded and cheered loudly.
“Sgt. Carr gave his life, so we could have ours today,” Wortman said of her son, who was 22 years old when he died. “He is forever and deeply missed.”
Connelly said it’s important that no American forgets the sacrifices war veterans have made.
“It’s one of the greatest honors ever to honor the people who made that sacrifice,” he said. “I will never let them be forgotten.”
Boccieri said hearing each man’s story was something he, or anyone in the crowd, should not soon forget.
“If the stories you heard tonight didn’t bring a chill I don’t know what will,” he said. “This event is made to show our appreciation for what they all have done for us.”