Veterans of Persian Gulf Era Wars Honored at Monument Dedication Ceremony

| June 17, 2019

CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – A ceremony dedicating a monument to the veterans of the Persian Gulf Era Wars was held on Friday, June 14, at Clarion County Veterans Memorial Park.

[PICTURED ABOVE: Representing fallen veterans: (left to right) Tom and Romayne McGinnis (parents of Ross McGinnis); Ted Minich (stepfather of Frank Walls); Natalie Schoonover (mother of Joseph Garrison) (not pictured, but present at the ceremony: Jacob Garrison – brother of Joseph Garrison); Lori Kundick (widow of Rick Weaver) with her husband Mike Kundick.]

(Photos by Dave Cyphert of ProPoint Media Photography.)

The ceremony featured several guest speakers who affirmed the importance of commemorating veterans of the Persian Gulf Wars.

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Four locals – ET3 Wayne Richard Weaver; Specialist Frank Walls; Specialist Ross McGinnis; and Sergeant Joseph Garrison – who were killed in action during the Persian Gulf Era Wars were acknowledged.

First to speak were Clarion County Commissioners Wayne Brosius and Ed Heasley.

“The interesting thing about this war is that this is a war that most of us remember and lived through,” Brosius said.

“All those families, soldiers that fought and did tour after tour after tour and the dedication for this country and for America and keeping it safe from an enemy over many many many miles away.

“We especially want to remember those four from Clarion County that gave their lives in the ultimate sacrifice,” Brosius added.

Heasley spoke about the brutality of the Persian Gulf Era Wars.

“Do you remember the first Gulf War, the Persian Gulf War, Desert Storm, or Desert Shield? They’re all the same war.

“Whatever we call it now, it was the war that expelled Iraqi troops from Kuwait, and checked a decade of Saddam Hussein’s aggressiveness towards his neighbors,” Heasley said in reference to the Persian Gulf conflicts that took place in the early 90’s under President H.W. Bush.

“Iraqi occupation forces killed at least 1,082 Kuwait civilian non-combatants including women, children, and mentally handicapped.

“Here we are today almost 29 years later continuing to battle.

“To all the veterans and their families past and present, thank you for your sacrifice, devotion, and our freedoms,” Heasley concluded.

Ross McGinnis’ father, Tom McGinnis, spoke next.

Ross, a 2005 Keystone High School graduate, received the medal of honor for giving his life to protect fellow soldiers while serving in Adhamiyah, Iraq.

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“One of the most famous expressions that I’ve heard is from Abraham Lincoln whenever he said that ‘A nation that does not honor its heroes will not long survive,’ and you look around here and you see that we have honored our heroes,” McGinnis said.

McGinnis then quoted former President Reagan, “Democracy is only one generation away from being extinct.”

“Each generation must support it, defend it, protect it.”

“(Veterans) all share one feature, and that is – before they ever got into a conflict, before they ever saw battle, they were willing to put up their right hand and say ‘I solemnly swear that I will support and defend and protect the constitution of the United States.’”

“I am proud that my son is considered one of them.” McGinnis added.

Jim Karg, a Former Staff Sergeant who served two tours in Iraq, spoke of the men and women who volunteered to protect our freedom.

“There’s a very very high cost to the freedoms and liberties that we enjoy today, and to remind us that there are men and women that are willing to stand up, volunteer to protect those freedoms,” Karg said.

“Veterans don’t seek out praise or recognition or a free meal at Applebees on Veterans Day. That’s not what it’s about; they just want people to remember.”

Karg concluded by saying that Clarion County residents should bring their kids to Memorial Park to help them understand the greatness of the sacrifices made by these veterans.

State Senator Scott Hutchinson and State Representative Donna Oberlander were also present at the dedication ceremony.

“A special prayer and a heartfelt thanks to those who lost family members in our conflicts over the years, which, those folks can never be replaced but their memory lives on in this wonderful, wonderful country that we live in because of people like them,” Hutchinson said.

“I found that it’s the small communities across America that have that little bit extra patriotism.”

“We can never give enough thanks,” Hutchinson remarked.

Oberlander stated that “These are real people that we know…To all the veterans of this era, we appreciate so much what you have done and we can’t thank you enough.

“We need to continue to remember, and this park is the way that we will continue to share that with our children and our children’s children so that we never stop appreciating what has been paid for our freedoms,” Oberlander added.

The entire ceremony is shown below:

How It All Started

The idea to build a monument honoring the veterans of the Persian Gulf Era Wars was initially created in a conversation between Clarion County Commissioner Ted Tharan and other county employees.

Afterward, Tharan consulted others in regard to how to pay for it. He was told that money for other park memorials has generally come from fundraising done by veterans which caused him to seek a different path to fund the project.

“We ask them to fight our wars, then we ask them to go out and raise money for their monuments,” Tharan said in frustration.

He was later told that the county commissioners could buy the monument using taxpayers’ funds for the citizens of Clarion County in honor of our service members from the Persian Gulf Era Wars.

Tharan then went to fellow Clarion County Commissioners Wayne Brosius and Ed Heasley to seek support for the project, which they immediately gave.

They then commissioned Clarion Monuments to make the monument.

“Everything (in the monument) is American made to honor American soldiers,” Tharan explained.

“From the citizens to the military soldiers, the people that protect us, this is our gift to you.

“The back of the monument gives thanks to the veterans and the sacrifices they made for us.

“The monument is in appreciation from the citizens of Clarion because we didn’t feel it was appropriate to ask the veterans to do fundraising for the project,” Tharan explained.

In an earlier interview with Steve Aaron, owner of Clarion Monuments, he told exploreClarion.com that 100 percent of the engraving of the mural was done in-house.

Everyone who’s involved with Clarion Monuments has either been a veteran or had a close family member who was a veteran, according to Aaron.

“The pictures are what makes this unique,” said Aaron. “We are a visual generation, and we’ve really tried hard to bring in the visual aspects of the war. You see it on TV every night.

“I collaborated with Jim (Karg) and others on the design and images. It was kind of a special project for us, and it was something we talked about and the T-wall design was symbolic of a blast wall or barrier. It symbolic of what they experienced in the Middle East.”

Clarion Monuments employees pictured around the memorial after installation are Steve Aaron (owner), Jim Karg, Mark Kahle, and Dave Raybuck.

Clarion Monuments employees pictured around the memorial after installation are Steve Aaron (owner), Jim Karg, Mark Kahle, and Dave Raybuck. (Photo by Ron Wilshire.)

“We’re strong supporters of projects like this,” said Aaron. “A project like this is substantially discounted. In all of the laser artwork, there’s probably $3,000.00 to $5,000.00 just on the engraving work, if you had to hire out somebody to do it. We donated all of that because it’s something we can do in-house, and it’s a way we can help the county and the veterans.”

“We enjoy contributing to these types of projects, and that’s why we do so many of them. We’re passionate about making sure that recognition and people are made aware of the sacrifices of not only the veterans but also their families make.

“Jim served his first tour and he came back. They’re basically on call for two years, and they can be called back any time within those two years. The very last day of his second year he got his letter, and they called him back. He’s working and made it back home again, but there are many who make the ultimate sacrifice and don’t return.”

The new memorial joins monuments in the park honoring veterans from every major war in the history of the United States. The new monument includes the Persian Gulf Conflict, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Desert Shield, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Inherent Resolve, and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.

As the war on terrorism continues, the monument leaves additional room for new campaigns.

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