Honoring Veterans In Every Way

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Tributes to the men and women who served in the armed forces are visible and grand throughout the region. Plazas decorated with flags, monuments and statues stand sentinel and pay homage to these veterans.

In other places, the honors are subtle. Dozens of markers or plaques dedicated to those who have served in the U.S. military are found today on roadways, bridges, courtyards, parks, gardens, pavilions and other public spaces.

No matter the size and scope of the honor or gesture, it’s clear that the Mahoning and Shenango valleys celebrates veterans and the role they’ve played in history.

It’s important that communities recognize the service of veterans, says Mike Kubitza, commander at American Legion Post 177 in Canfield. Two years ago, the Legion thought it proper to erect a 60-foot flagpole on the north end of the city green to honor those who have served in the military.

That project has since expanded.  “We’re now in the process of making it into a veteran’s plaza,” Kubitza says.

The new plaza now includes six 25-foot service flags representing the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and Space Force, as well as a POW-MIA banner.

A 32-foot diameter concrete pad was recently installed with new lighting and is awaiting the installation of new benches there. Monuments are also on order, but will not arrive until spring, he says.

“We’ve raised more than $100,000 for the project,” Kubitza says. A ceremony is scheduled for 1 p.m. Nov. 11 – Veteran’s Day – to dedicate the plaza.

Post 177 also participates in veterans programs in Canfield’s elementary schools to introduce young people to those who served.  “We go into the fourth grade classes and speak with them and let them ask questions,” he says.  “We share with them what we did in the service.”

Kubitza served for 29 years in the Ohio National Guard and was deployed for nine months in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War. “I was 45 years old when I went over there,” he says.

The plaza is the newest addition to the long tradition of preserving the memory and acknowledging the sacrifice of veterans.

Bristolville, in Trumbull County, for example, is home to what is largely considered Ohio’s first Civil War monument, dedicated on Oct. 15, 1863, to remember those killed at the Battle of Shiloh. Another Bristolville marker honors those who are buried there and served in the American War for Independence.

This sculpture of a World War I soldier stands among other monuments at the Trumbull County Veterans’ Memorial in Warren.

Among the earliest memorials erected in Youngstown is the Civil War Soldier’s Monument on downtown’s Central Square. The memorial, dedicated July 4, 1870, honors those from the city who perished while in service for the Union Army.  Nearby, a Vietnam War memorial honors those killed in action during that conflict.

According to Historical Marker Database, there are 51 public commemorative memorials or markers in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties that are related to veterans or military campaigns. 

In downtown Warren, perhaps the largest memorial to pay homage to veterans in the Mahoning Valley stands just west of Courthouse Square, overlooking the Mahoning River.  The sprawling Trumbull County Veterans Memorial was dedicated Nov. 11, 2008 – its centerpiece a dynamic sculpture of a U.S. Marine storming the island of Iwo Jima during World War II. Created by sculptor Robert Eccleston, the figure is based on a painting by Col. Charles Waterhouse.

The memorial – initially a World War II monument – was the vision of Marine 1st Lt. William Muter, a Vietnam veteran. After Muter’s death in 2007, local attorney Ned Gold took up the cause and solicited support from local business leaders, the Warren Tribune Chronicle, Trumbull Memorial Hospital and local architectural firm Baker, Bednar and Associates, which donated its services to design and expand the project.

Gold says he and others created the Western Reserve Veterans’ Memorial Association to raise funds to construct and maintain the landmark. Local contractor Gibson Construction Inc. built the memorial at a reduced cost. 

Still, there was a gap in funding that the group needed to close, Gold says. He contacted his friend, former Chairman and CEO of Fox News Roger Ailes, a Warren native, to present the dedication speech on Veterans’ Day 2008.

The night before the ceremony, Ailes asked Gold whether the project had enough funds. Gold responded it didn’t, and Ailes asked just how much more it would require. “I gave him a figure (he declines to say how much). Two weeks later, he sent me a check for that figure. It was very substantial.”

That money is still used to help take care of the memorial, today a cornerstone of the city’s downtown, Gold says.

“It’s dedicated to veterans of all eras and all campaigns,” Gold says. 

Efforts to preserve military history and the role of veterans also are on display in unlikely places.

Those who step into the U.S. Post Office in downtown Youngstown, for example, are greeted with a display case containing an original copy of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin dated Dec. 7, 1941 – the first print news reports of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. 

In Canfield, the War Vet Museum collects and preserves artifacts from the Revolutionary War era to present-day military operations conducted by the United States. The museum – once the home of American Legion Post 177 – was founded in 1988 to honor all who have served in the U.S. military.

“We take donations from veterans – we get a lot of uniforms, and people don’t know what to do with them,” says Pam Speece, who along with her husband and son, operate the museum today. 

Donating these artifacts to the War Vet Museum presents families with an opportunity to have them stored and cared for, Speece says. “They know they can come back and see them, or bring their grandchildren.”

More than 50,000 articles are stored at the museum – all of them donations – ranging from a sword once owned by Revolutionary War General “Mad” Anthony Wayne to uniforms and medals from present-day military conflicts, Speece says.

“We’ve had people from all over come through,” she says.  “One visitor from Washington, D.C., was amazed at our collection.”

Ultimately, the museum exemplifies the solidarity and support among those who served, Speece says. “Veterans take care of veterans,” she says.

Pictured at top: Mike Kubitza is the commander of Amerian Legion Post 177, which is creating a veterans plaza in Canfield.