VETERANS DAY: 10 killed in Iraq and Afghanistan remembered


Gold Star families honored at Amherst mural unveiling

By Jason Hawk - jhawk@aimmediamidwest.com



A downtown mural bears the likenesses of Air Force Airman 1st Class Eric Barnes of Lorain, Army Sgt. Benjamin Biskie of Vermilion, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Ryan Giese of Lorain, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David Hall of Lorain, Army Staff Sgt. James Hunter of South Amherst, Army Capt. Michael Medders of Avon Lake, Army Sgt. Daniel Shepherd of Elyria, Army Sgt. Norman Tollett of Elyria, Army Sgt. Louis Torres of Oberlin, and Army Master Sgt. Robert West of Elyria.


Photos by Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times

Brian Goodwin and Mike Sekletar created the Iraq and Afghanistan mural downtown. Goodwin said his biggest regret is not serving in uniform, and the project was a sort of penance.


Photos by Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times

The family of Air Force Airman 1st Class Eric Barnes takes the stage. His father, Tom Barnes, thanked the artists for “capturing Eric the way he was,” saying his smile was perfectly ainted.


Photos by Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times

Lou Maglio of Fox 8 News has served as master of ceremonies at Amherst Veterans Day events the past seven years. He called the murals “a wonderful gift to this community and a wonderful gift to the veterans.”


Photos by Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times

The family of Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David Hall of Lorain remembered him as a man “who wouldn’t hurt a soul.”


Photos by Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times

Honor guard members walk across the stage in a salute to the fallen.


Photos by Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times

The length of the mural wall is lined with American flags as thousands fill the Amherst municipal parking lot on Park Avenue for a Veterans Day ceremony.


Photos by Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times

“It was tough,” says Larry Giese, father of Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Ryan Giese, as he talks about coping with his son’s death.


Photos by Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times

“I’m not a hero,” says Colin Smith, who survived sniper fire in Iraq. Looking toward the new mural, he said, “They’re the heroes.”


Photos by Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times

The sound of “Taps” fills the air in downtown Amherst as the 10 Lorain County men killed in the War on Terror as memorialized.


Photos by Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times

Ryan Giese wanted to be a Marine his entire life and follow in his father’s footsteps.

“He loved being a grunt,” said Larry Giese, holding back tears on Veterans Day as he told how his son’s unit suffered zero deaths in Iraq but was decimated in Afghanistan.

The Greenhats, as they were nicknamed by the Taliban, were feared by insurgents. Still, 13 of Giese’s unit were killed within a six-month window.

Lance Cpl. “Goose” was the last of that number. It was Jan. 7, 2011, and the Lorain native, just 24 years old, was on the final foot patrol of his tour when an improvised explosive device took his life.

Now Giese is memorialized by a mural unveiled Saturday in downtown Amherst. It bears the likenesses of 10 Lorain County servicemen who died in the War on Terror.

Several Gold Star families were the guests of honor at a ceremony on Park Avenue, where artists Mike Sekletar and Brian Goodwin have also created building-tall tributes to the heroes of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

Tom Barnes, father of Air Force Airman 1st Class Eric Barnes of Lorain, shared how he told his son that enlistment would almost certainly mean deployment to Iraq. “Dad, that’s why I want to join,” his son responded.

The younger Barnes made it home from Iraq and everyone tried to stop him from going back. A few months later, he was killed by an IED.

Laura Hall remembered her brother, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David Hall of Lorain, as a gentle spirit and a deep thinker who would sit apart from others in his unit and read his Bible.

He was killed two months after his 31st birthday in Afghanistan but the Bible was returned to his family; a Christmas card was found inside. “We knew he carried God with him everywhere he went,” but the card showed he also carried his family’s love, his sister said.

Marines Lance Cpl. Colin Smith took the stage briefly to speak. A Purple Heart recipient, he was wounded Oct. 30, 2006, when his unit was hit by sniper fire in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq.

He celebrated his 11th “alive day” this year.

“I’m not a hero. I’m a survivor. Those are the ones who didn’t survive,” he said, waving toward the men depicted by the mural.

The addition of the Iraq and Afghanistan mural completes the Amherst wall.

“We could have easily been buddies with any of these guys, and even though I never had the honor of meeting any of them, it’s emotional,” Sekletar said.

In the spring, he and Goodwin will add images of Army Spc. Jason Cox and Army Sgt. Bruce Horner of Lorain to the wall. Their families could not be reached until after the project was started this fall.

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.

A downtown mural bears the likenesses of Air Force Airman 1st Class Eric Barnes of Lorain, Army Sgt. Benjamin Biskie of Vermilion, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Ryan Giese of Lorain, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David Hall of Lorain, Army Staff Sgt. James Hunter of South Amherst, Army Capt. Michael Medders of Avon Lake, Army Sgt. Daniel Shepherd of Elyria, Army Sgt. Norman Tollett of Elyria, Army Sgt. Louis Torres of Oberlin, and Army Master Sgt. Robert West of Elyria.
http://www.theamherstnewstimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/43/2017/11/web1_DSC_0597.jpgA downtown mural bears the likenesses of Air Force Airman 1st Class Eric Barnes of Lorain, Army Sgt. Benjamin Biskie of Vermilion, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Ryan Giese of Lorain, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David Hall of Lorain, Army Staff Sgt. James Hunter of South Amherst, Army Capt. Michael Medders of Avon Lake, Army Sgt. Daniel Shepherd of Elyria, Army Sgt. Norman Tollett of Elyria, Army Sgt. Louis Torres of Oberlin, and Army Master Sgt. Robert West of Elyria.

Photos by Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times

Brian Goodwin and Mike Sekletar created the Iraq and Afghanistan mural downtown. Goodwin said his biggest regret is not serving in uniform, and the project was a sort of penance.
http://www.theamherstnewstimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/43/2017/11/web1_DSC_0554.jpgBrian Goodwin and Mike Sekletar created the Iraq and Afghanistan mural downtown. Goodwin said his biggest regret is not serving in uniform, and the project was a sort of penance.

Photos by Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times

The family of Air Force Airman 1st Class Eric Barnes takes the stage. His father, Tom Barnes, thanked the artists for “capturing Eric the way he was,” saying his smile was perfectly ainted.
http://www.theamherstnewstimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/43/2017/11/web1_DSC_0516.jpgThe family of Air Force Airman 1st Class Eric Barnes takes the stage. His father, Tom Barnes, thanked the artists for “capturing Eric the way he was,” saying his smile was perfectly ainted.

Photos by Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times

Lou Maglio of Fox 8 News has served as master of ceremonies at Amherst Veterans Day events the past seven years. He called the murals “a wonderful gift to this community and a wonderful gift to the veterans.”
http://www.theamherstnewstimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/43/2017/11/web1_DSC_0488.jpgLou Maglio of Fox 8 News has served as master of ceremonies at Amherst Veterans Day events the past seven years. He called the murals “a wonderful gift to this community and a wonderful gift to the veterans.”

Photos by Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times

The family of Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David Hall of Lorain remembered him as a man “who wouldn’t hurt a soul.”
http://www.theamherstnewstimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/43/2017/11/web1_DSC_0540.jpgThe family of Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David Hall of Lorain remembered him as a man “who wouldn’t hurt a soul.”

Photos by Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times

Honor guard members walk across the stage in a salute to the fallen.
http://www.theamherstnewstimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/43/2017/11/web1_DSC_0510.jpgHonor guard members walk across the stage in a salute to the fallen.

Photos by Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times

The length of the mural wall is lined with American flags as thousands fill the Amherst municipal parking lot on Park Avenue for a Veterans Day ceremony.
http://www.theamherstnewstimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/43/2017/11/web1_DSC_0586.jpgThe length of the mural wall is lined with American flags as thousands fill the Amherst municipal parking lot on Park Avenue for a Veterans Day ceremony.

Photos by Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times

“It was tough,” says Larry Giese, father of Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Ryan Giese, as he talks about coping with his son’s death.
http://www.theamherstnewstimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/43/2017/11/web1_DSC_0537.jpg“It was tough,” says Larry Giese, father of Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Ryan Giese, as he talks about coping with his son’s death.

Photos by Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times

“I’m not a hero,” says Colin Smith, who survived sniper fire in Iraq. Looking toward the new mural, he said, “They’re the heroes.”
http://www.theamherstnewstimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/43/2017/11/web1_DSC_0558.jpg“I’m not a hero,” says Colin Smith, who survived sniper fire in Iraq. Looking toward the new mural, he said, “They’re the heroes.”

Photos by Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times

The sound of “Taps” fills the air in downtown Amherst as the 10 Lorain County men killed in the War on Terror as memorialized.
http://www.theamherstnewstimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/43/2017/11/web1_DSC_0574.jpgThe sound of “Taps” fills the air in downtown Amherst as the 10 Lorain County men killed in the War on Terror as memorialized.

Photos by Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times

Gold Star families honored at Amherst mural unveiling

By Jason Hawk

jhawk@aimmediamidwest.com