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Published: Monday, 11/11/2002

Monument a testament to high price of freedom


Don Griffith knows better than most the meaning of the phrase inscribed on a new monument to honor veterans in Northwood: “Freedom is not Free.”

A former prisoner of war in Korea, Mr. Griffith spoke of the sacrifice he and other veterans have made in service to the United States during a dedication of the monument yesterday in front of Northwood's municipal building.

“Once you're totally without, you realize what you've taken for granted for so long,” said Mr. Griffith, who was a prisoner for 33 months in a North Korean POW camp called Death Valley.

VFW Post 2984 and city officials organized the drive for the $25,000 monument that was placed in a memorial plaza outside the municipal building. It was paid for by private donations and corporate sponsors.

David Gallaher, a Northwood city councilman, said the project was put together in about 10 months.

“It just proves what we can accomplish with everyone working together,” Mr. Gallaher said. “Now we have a monument that really is a work of art.”

The dedication, which drew 200 people, featured speeches by Mr. Griffith and other veterans, patriotic songs by the Rossford Community Choir, and a 21-gun salute.

Mr. Griffith, a 75-year-old retired Marine staff sergeant, said that kind of respect for the flag needs to be encouraged in order to instill patriotism in children who may one day be called into battle.

He knows how great the sacrifice can be for someone called into war. On Dec. 1, 1950, he was captured by Chinese Communist soldiers during the battle of the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea.

Wounded by shrapnel in the eye, nose, and leg, Mr. Griffith was held in a cell for the sick and wounded. Two or three of his fellow soldiers would die a day, and he became ill while he was in captivity.

Fed only two tin-can cups of “soupy rice” a day, he lost 100 pounds from the 5-foot-7, 185-pound frame he had when he was a healthy Marine.

“We didn't need any Slim-Fast,” he joked. He was released on Aug. 31, 1953 - his birthday.

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