Exhibit pays tribute to Ohio soldiers lost in war on terrorism
By Sean Barron
You could say that the late Army Sgt. Robert M. Carr’s values and personality were summarized in four words that accompanied a tattoo on his chest over his heart.
“His motto was, ‘Live free, die well.’ He was very patriotic and determined to protect his country,” Carr’s mother, Cathy Carr of Fowler, recalled about her son, who was killed March 13, 2007, during a deployment to Iraq. He was 22.
Carr and her husband, Jeff, were among the estimated 100 Gold Star families and others who attended the Ohio Flags of Honor traveling display’s closing ceremony Sunday afternoon in Boardman Park.
The emotional exhibit was set up Friday to honor Carr and the other 299 Ohio men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan, Iraq and globally during the war on terrorism. More than 800 American flags were on display in rows, with the fallen soldiers’ names on 300 of them.
Hosting the somber one-hour ceremony was the Liberty-based Veterans Outreach. The agency assists veterans of all military branches statewide with paying utility bills, finding shelter, arranging for transportation and other essential needs, noted Teri Ely, executive director.
The organization also made 300 lanyards, one for each fallen soldier, that also included an arrangement of buttons that spelled “hero,” Ely said.
One of Robert Carr’s primary ambitions after returning to civilian life was to become a professional wrestler, and in January 2007, he was accepted at a World Wrestling Entertainment school. Carr was quite thin when he enlisted, however, so he spent a lot of downtime during his deployment working out to prepare for wrestling, his father said with pride.
Shortly before his tour of duty, Robert Carr and his parents took a family vacation at the younger Carr’s sister’s Tucson, Ariz., home to celebrate the holidays Robert Carr would miss by being overseas, Jeff Carr explained.
“I’m so glad we took it,” he added, fighting back tears.
“He got along with anybody. He blended in and helped anyone who needed it,” Gino Zimmer said about his son, Army Spc. Nicholaus E. Zimmer, who was killed in May 2004, in Kufa, Iraq, 13 months into a 16-month deployment.
Zimmer, OFOH’s president and co-founder, said his only child was voted “Most Unique” in high school in Wesleyan, Ohio, and that he enjoyed rollerblading and reading to children. Shortly after graduating in 2001, he enlisted in the military and hoped to be an English teacher, thanks to a 12th-grade teacher’s influence, Zimmer continued.
His wife, Lisa, also founded the organization.
Among Nicholaus Zimmer’s awards were two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart with a cluster, said Gino Zimmer, who noted that the exhibit stops in about 17 Ohio communities each year between May and October.
Those who have lost loved ones in combat should seek a pastor or other support system and not try to deal with their grief alone, Jeff Carr explained.
“We had family, friends, neighbors and church members helping us. The outpouring of support from everyone was just amazing,” he said. “They say it takes a village to raise a child, but I know it takes a community to bury one.”
The program also included the release of remembrance balloons as a tribute to the fallen soldiers. Each white balloon contained the inscription “Forever in our hearts you’ll stay. We will love you and remember you every single day.”
Making additional remarks were John Ely, the Veterans Outreach president, and retired Air Force Lt. Col. Angelo Nuzzo.
The nonprofit Ohio Flags of Honor is seeking donations. To make a contribution, go to www.ohioflags-ofhonor.org and click on the PayPal “donate” button, or mail checks or money orders to Ohio Flags of Honor Memorial, 1294 Harding Way, East Galion, OH 44833.