Memorial wall dedicated to veterans

A MEMORIAL — Retired Marine Sgt. Jack Ernest said each of the 880 bricks that make up the Jefferson County Veterans Memorial Wall represents an individual who answered his country’s call to serve. Sixty-two of the names inscribed on the bricks are of soldiers killed or missing in action. -- Linda Harris

SMITHFIELD — Jefferson County veterans gathered July 17 to dedicate a Memorial Wall eight years in the making.

A crowd of about 100 gathered at Fort Friendship Military Park to remember the sacrifices each of the bricks represents.

“I’ve been told that when this project first started, they were anticipating (about) 90 or so names,” retired Marine Sgt. Jack Ernest, the keynote speaker, said. “Today as we stand here looking upon this magnificent work of love and dedication, we can easily (see) an overwhelming 888 names (on it).”

Ernest pointed out that every name inscribed on a brick represented an individual who had answered the call to defend his country.

“Because of that fact, you and I can stand here in freedom, (at) this very moment,” he said. “Many of us gathered here today have done the very same thing; it’s called ‘Americanism,’ patriotism. It’s much bigger than ourselves. It’s who we are as a nation.

“If their voices were able to cry out, I’m sure we would hear, ‘and I’d do it again.'”

Even as the memorial is dedicated in their honor, Ernest said it stands as a reminder “that freedom is not free and it will always require the shedding of blood.”

Jefferson County Commission Tom Graham said the memorial serves to “keep the memory alive of men and women willing to die” for their country.

“The names on the wall are to remind us of the sacrifice that veterans have (made) for us,” he said afterward. “We are the land of the free because we are the home of the brave.”

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson R- Marietta, said the monument “is an example of Small Town USA honoring their own.”

“That’s the way it used to work,” Johnson said. “I’m glad to see it’s still working that way in Jefferson County. The community came together to do this.”

Frank Santa, commander of the Jefferson County Veterans Association, thanked those who attended the ceremony, “especially the ones who sat out in the drizzling rain with their umbrellas, patiently waiting (for it to stop).”


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