Dot Kimberlin stood proudly in the front row, gazing out onto the shining memorial.
On Dec. 7, 1944, the aircraft carrying Sgt. Jerome Korte of the U.S. Army Air Corps was downed on its way to England. The plane was carrying nine men. There were no survivors. Korte, Kimberlin's brother, now has his name etched in bronze on the memorial so that his sacrifice will never be forgotten by his home town.
"That was the first time I had ever seen it," Kimberlin said.
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Korte, 15 other fellow service members who were all killed during either World War, as well as Highland's only police officer killed in the line of duty, are remembered on the new memorial.
"They really did a fabulous job. It really looks nice," Kimberlin said.
Kimberlin was among many who bared the hot, summer sun on the Fourth of July for memorial's dedication. Despite the heat, more than 250 people came to the 10 a.m. ceremony.
"Well, the turnout really was exceptionally good. But we really did expect that," said Mayor Joe Michaelis after the ceremony.
For the ceremony, large American flags were painted in the turf on the mound behind the wall, courtesy of the city of Highland. Stationed behind the wall, flags of each military branch waved in the breeze.
Once everybody took their seats, the ceremony was opened by the American Legion Post Lee Iten 439 and Veterans of Foreign War Post 5694 combined Color and Honor Guard in full regalia, who raised an American flag over the monument as Jeannie Korte sang her rendition the national anthem. It was the first time the colors had ever been raised over the monument.
After the flag raising, the crowd bowed their heads as the Rev. Phil Chapman gave the ceremony's opening prayer.
"For these, our Highland heroes who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our people on the altar of freedom, today, on this 244th year of our beloved land, the people of Highland give you thanks, in our Lord Jesus Christ's name," Chapman said.
It was at this time that Kimberlin, and the other attending Gold Star families were asked to rise. All veterans and first-responders were also recognized by master of ceremonies Lenny Gall. Then, VFW commander Mike Voegle took the podium to recognize all of the people who made the project possible, including the project committee members and major contributors who helped since the start of this project, which has been several years in the making.
American Legion Lee Iten Post 439 commander Bill Halcomb briefly spoke about all of the details that went into the project. He relayed that there were difficult times while planning, which at times, made it feel like an impossible job to finish.
"But we persevered, and the task was completed," Halcomb said.
Halcomb's speech was followed by a tribute to the veterans given by state Rep. Charlie Meier, who said that the memorial speaks well for the Highland community. He also reminded the crowd of the importance of remembering what veterans have done for the country and what is owed to them for their sacrifices.
"I hope, as people go buzzing by in their busy schedules, that they think about what this memorial means and the people who gave everything so that we can have what we have today," Meier said.
Then, the keynote speaker, Mayor Michaelis took to the podium.
Michaelis was asked to speak, because he was one of the "largest proponents for Veterans Honor Parkway, Dennis H. Rinderer Park and the memorial," organizers said.
Michaelis said that it was not too long ago that the road, the park and the memorial items were just visions in his mind.
"It was my quest, my idea to recognize veterans, not just by naming this boulevard Veterans Honor Parkway, but to thank those who gave their lives for this great country," Michaelis said.
During his speech, Michaelis brought the project committee up in front of the crowd for recognition. The committee members were Halcomb, VFW member and past commander Kate Broadhurst, VFW board member Mike Black and VFW and Legion member Brett Leman. The members were met by a round of applause from the audience after Michaelis asked them to give the committee a final message.
"On three, I'm going to ask you to say, 'Mission accomplished,' to these people," Michaelis said with a smile and a clenched fist.
"Mission accomplished," the crowd echoed.
Michaelis' speech was followed by the benediction, also given Chapman. Afterward, the committee marched a red, white and blue carnation wreath to wall, where it was placed before the center plaque that reads: "All Gave Some, Some Gave All."
After a moment of silence for fallen heroes, the ceremony was closed with a rifle salute and the playing of Taps.
"It gave me chills," said Anne Cicero, a dedication attendee.
Like Kimberlin, Cicero also represented someone on one of the plaques on the wall. Pvt. Walter W. Maiden Jr., who served in the Army, was Cicero's mother's first husband, and her half-sister's father. She said that Maiden also has a banner on Veterans Honor Parkway.
In addition to having a family member on the wall, Cicero had three memorial bricks placed before the wall for her father, brother, and a distant relative named Michael Beck, who fought in the Revolutionary War.
"There was such a wonderful turnout. I think it was such an emotional situation for those who didn’t even have loved ones there," Cicero said.
Citizens were able to order bricks or a granite slab in honor of any local veteran or first-responder (police officer, firefighter or EMT), living or dead, to help pave the area before the wall. These pavers are still being sold after the dedication, and will continue to be sold until otherwise announced. Order forms will still be available at the Highland City Hall, the Highland Chamber of Commerce, Louis Latzer Memorial Public Library, VFW Post 5694 and American Legion Post 439.
After the ceremony, American flag painted rocks were also placed above each of the soldiers plaques.
Marguerite Fontana, another attendee who has a large military, said the genuine show of national pride from the community was enough to move her to tears.
"It made me cry. And people who did the dedication, it came from their heart, and I really appreciated them," Fontana said.
Those who wish to visit the memorial will find it on the south side of Dennis H. Rinderer Park, across the parking lot from the Highland Jaycees Dog Park.
The same flag raised during the dedication will continue to fly behind the wall. Lights have been stationed to keep the flag lit after dark, so those driving by may be able to see it and remember the lives that are represented below.