Franklin dedicates KIA monument
Standing in front of the Killed in Action Memorial at the Phifer Ice Dam in Franklin Township are, from left, township residents James and Marlene Hawk and Willard Ahner. On the list is Ahner’s brother, Clarence, who died just before World War II ended in 1945 and before Ahner was born. RON GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Linda Steigerwalt, left, whose brother Ronald Christman was killed in the Vietnam War, accepts a microphone from Jennifer Eckhart. Steigerwalt holds a rose to place at the memorial which was dedicated by the Franklin Township Lions Club on Sunday. RON GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Retired Franklin Elementary School teacher Larry Hill gives a history of the creation of the Killed in Action Memorial in Franklin Township during its dedication on Sunday. The memorial was rebuilt by the Franklin Township Lions Club and moved to the Phifer Ice Dam.
Franklin Township elementary student Connor Stay leads audience in pledge of allegiance during dedication of K.I.A. Memorial at the Phifer Ice Dam in Franklin.
Teacher Larry Hill and his fifth- and sixth-grade students created the original Killed in Action Memorial 30 years ago at the now-closed Franklin Elementary.
Hill was the main speaker for the dedication of a KIA Memorial dedication Sunday afternoon at the Phifer’s Ice Dam in the township.
The plaque listing the names of military members from the township who were killed in action in past wars was pulled from the original memorial and a new stone monument was erected as a project of the Franklin Township Lions Club next to the pavilion of the ice dam.
Hill told the several hundred people gathered at the ice dam that the project began inadvertently when students asked him if he knew of anyone who died fighting a war. He said he did. They asked him how many soldiers from Franklin Township died in wars.
He made a project from this, telling them to ask parents, grandparents and other adults if they knew of anyone who fits the category.
“In one week we had 13 names,” he said.
They took it a step further. The students would find out the names of all Franklin service members who died in combat in all wars fought.
A list of 29 names was created. The classes decided they wanted a memorial so those names would be permanently displayed.
Students conducted a fund drive and in just two days $1,400 was raised, Hill said. “Every time I went to buy materials, they (business owners) wouldn’t take my money,” he said.
So much money was raised that the leftover funds were donated to the Franklin Township Little League.
He said he learned that “we always had an overdose of patriotism in Franklin.”
Jennifer Eckhart was a student in Hill’s class 30 years ago when the memorial was built.
Eckhart said, “As Mr. Larry Hill sparked energy and excitement for history in the hearts of his fifth- and sixth-grade students all those years ago, so, we now want to spark that same passion in the next generation of children.”
“Passing the torch to the next generation of leaders begins with teaching our children our foundation of values and principles.”
Eckhart said, “A healthy country begins with a healthy community and a healthy community begins with a healthy home. As we dedicate this memorial today and honor it annually, we are demonstrating to our children how to love our nation, remember our beginnings and dream of tomorrow.”
Eckhart also read a Bible verse and led the audience in prayer.
At the conclusion of the program, family members or delegates were given a rose to lay at the foot of the memorial.
Among them was Linda Steigerwalt, who placed a flower for her brother, Ronald Christman, who was killed in Vietnam.
Another was Sandy Stohr, whose father Russell Focht, died in World War II. She was holding a photo of her father.
Willard Ahner saw the name of a brother he never met. Clarence Ahner was killed in World War II in 1945. Willard Ahner wasn’t born until after Clarence’s death.
Myron Strohl got choked-up when he read a letter that his uncle, Raymond Strohl, wrote to his father, Milton Strohl, from Normandy, telling them he was fine. The letter was written a short time before he died on Normandy. He was attached to a recon company of a tank battalion. A picture of his uncle was displayed with him.
Serving as master of ceremonies was elementary student Connor Stay.
Abigail Wilusz presented a reading while taps was played by Isabelle Cressley.
When the war dead were honored, Caine Carpenter played a drum roll.
Joel Christman, president of the Lions Club, made opening and closing remarks. He said the monument is constructed of all hand-cut stone.
The Perseverance Jazz Band played musical selections, including patriotic numbers and the themes of each military branch. Henry Long, who is the leader of the Perseverance Jazz Band, accompanied the other musicians when they played the national anthem by playing it on a harmonica.