6 benches outside Quaker Steak honor fallen soldiers

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Local Gold Star families shared tears and received salutes during a ceremony honoring their husbands, brothers and sons who died in the line of duty.

Township trustees and local veteran activists dedicated six benches Tuesday morning that will remain outside the Quaker Steak & Lube restaurant along Patriot Boulevard. They’re engraved with the names of servicemen from Austintown, Boardman and Champion townships who died in three conflicts:

Second Lt. John Terlecky Jr., Army Air Corps, World War II; Hospitalman David L. Eisenbraun, Navy, Vietnam War; Second Lt. Charles W. Brown, Army, Vietnam War; Sgt. James Prommersberger, Marine Corps, Vietnam War; Chief Warrant Officer Donald V. Clark, Army, Iraq War; and Sgt. Robert M. Carr, Army, Iraq War.

Above Chris Wortman’s heart was a small, shining, purple-and-gold pin – a Gold Star inside of a circle. That pin was in place of her son, Sgt. Carr, who died during his second tour of Iraq. He was 22.

“He was killed March 13, 2007 – 4,515 days ago. I count my days,” Wortman said.

When Gold Star families revealed the memorial benches from underneath black covers, Wortman retreated into the arms of her husband, Bill Wortman, remembering the young man she said could light up a room and “put himself always last before everybody else.”

“When I go to things like this, I kind of don’t want to hear my son’s name because you still do that little bit of denial. … But what an honor,” Chris Wortman said.

Second Lt. Brown was Karen Ruberto’s first husband. They met in high school and graduated in 1962, married in 1965 and had a daughter in 1966.

Brown died in 1967 in the Mekong Delta in South Vietnam. As Ruberto was told, his squad was surrounded, but Brown was the last to die after tending to other fighters’ wounds and continuing to fight back – “which says everything there is to know about him,” she said.

“He was a guy that was humble. He wouldn’t have dreamt that anything like this [dedication] would be happening for him,” Ruberto said. “Let’s put it this way: My mom and dad approved of him from day one.”

The benches, five of which were donated by the family of HN Eisenbraun and one by the manufacturer Applegate Furniture of Canfield, will be spread out around the restaurant for patrons to sit and reflect, said Ken Jakubec, a veteran advocate and longtime Quaker Steak employee who helped organize the dedication alongside veteran Leo Connelly Jr.

The two also worked to raise flags representing each branch of the armed forces along Patriot Boulevard outside the eatery.

Chris Wortman said making new family members of military veterans or bereaved loved ones – through numerous events such as Tuesday’s dedication – has helped her cope with her son’s death.

“Every soldier will make sure my son is not forgotten,” she said.

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