Tribute to service, sacrifice

JACKSON TOWNSHIP — The desire to help remember some of his childhood friends who died in Vietnam was a driving factor in former trustee and Vietnam veteran Steve Gondol’s desire to build the township’s Veterans Memorial.

“They were from the area; we went to grade school together, and high school,” Gondol said. “And it was something that I felt that, because I was in the position of a trustee, I could bring up at a meeting and I would get the input of other people in the community. And it took off, they accepted it.”

Seventeen years later, the memorial still stands tall, as dozens of residents gathered under overcast skies to remember the sacrifices of veterans and American soldiers on Monday. Participants began gathering around 8 a.m. at Jackson-Milton High School’s football stadium parking lot for the parade to the cemetery housing the memorial. The parade officially kicked off an hour later, following a memorial ceremony commemorating those who died in the Vietnam War.

Les Wright, an Army sergeant and Afghanistan veteran who teaches history at the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center, was the observance’s keynote speaker. Wright explained that 1.4 million men and women have died in combat throughout the country’s history, adding that it would take a very long time to read every single name.

“In light of that fact, I would like to take the time here today to go ahead and start reading all 1.4 million names,” Wright said. “Of course, I’m kidding. I’m not going to read all 1.4 million names. However, if I were going to, it would take roughly 83 hours or 3 1/2 days to do so without pause. It is a large number, but even smaller, when you compare that to all of the men and women who have chosen to serve this country, roughly 41 million men and women.”

Wright said 20 was the average age of those who died in combat, noting that with the average American lifespan being 70, each soldier gave up 50 years of their future for the country.

“Collectively, that’s 70 million years, long enough to reach back to the Tyrannosaurus Rex and the dinosaurs,” Wright said. “Phrased another way, that means these men and women gave up more future than humanity has passed, and they gave up those years for you, even if they never knew you directly. They gave up birthdays, holidays, spouses and kids.”

“They gave up their comforts and dreams and all the things we want to enjoy in our future. They gave their lives for whatever reason they felt worthy enough to do so. And they did it so others they may never know wouldn’t have to,” Wright added.

U.S. Army Reserve member and Jackson-Milton class of 2017 graduate Renee Duhon read the names of the fallen at Jackson Township’s Memorial Day Observance at the township’s Veterans Memorial.

Ellsworth VFW Post 9571 performed a rifle volley commemorating the fallen.

Chorbishop Anthony Spinosa of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon on Lipkey Road, who celebrated his 40th anniversary of ordination to priesthood last June, performed a benediction to conclude the observance.

Have an interesting story? Contact the newsroom by email at news@vindy.com. Follow us on X, formerly Twitter, @TribToday.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today