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Published: Tuesday, 11/11/2003

Lima tank plant honors veterans

BY RACHEL ZINN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Jeff Exton, who works at the Lima Army Tank Plant, views a model of the monument to be built outside the plant. Officials hope to have it completed by Veterans Day next year. Jeff Exton, who works at the Lima Army Tank Plant, views a model of the monument to be built outside the plant. Officials hope to have it completed by Veterans Day next year.
SIMMONS / BLADE Enlarge

LIMA, Ohio - Workers at the Lima Army Tank Plant gathered yesterday to honor those among them who not only have built the tools of battle, but served their country in the military.

More than 250 people - over a third of the plant s workers - are veterans. The plant annually recognizes these women and men just before Veterans Day.

This year the ceremony both saluted the past and revealed plans for the future. The veterans committee for the plant s unionized workers shared designs for a veterans memorial sculpture that will sit in front of the plant for public viewing.

“This permanent monument will stand as a pledge that veterans will never be forgotten,” Greg Gebolys, head of the veterans committee, said.

The monument s five pillars, covered with brick-like enamel, will list the names of area veterans. Employees and other community members will pay about $100 to have a brick inscribed with the name of a veteran. The fees will pay for the monument, which will cost about $200,000.

Officials hope the monument will be finished by Veterans Day next year. Its colored pillars will stand in a triangle pattern, but when visitors view the columns from the front, they will appear as a unified U.S. flag.

“The five panels are like the five branches of the service,” Mr. Gebolys said. “They re separate, but when they need to, they ll all bond together for a common cause.”

The hour-long ceremony outside the plant drew about 500 people. The crowd, which sat solemnly in the frosty morning air, included plant workers, government officials, and veterans from throughout the area.

Keith Deters, plant manager, presented the keynote speech. He urged everyone to thank at least one veteran in the community, and praised plant employees for their dedication.

In the last four months, he said, the plant has designed and built armor to protect tanks against rocket-propelled grenades, the weapon of choice for Iraqi rebels. “The last shipment of the armor leaves this week,” he said. “You can be assured that the armor you built will save lives - American lives.”

The plant also produced the M1A2 Abrams tank, a 67-ton vehicle that played a key role in transporting U.S. troops quickly from Kuwait to Baghdad.

Mr. Deters read a letter from Lt. Col. Damon Walsh, the plant commander, who is serving in Iraq. “We are losing soldiers here almost every day, and it tears my heart apart every time it happens,” the colonel wrote. “It s important to note the sacrifices made by our veterans as a backdrop to the challenges faced by our soldiers today.”

Chris Dauer of Perrysburg attended because his father-in-law, Gerald Hill, painted a picture of the proposed monument. Mr. Dauer, who served with the Air Force in 1991 during the gulf war, praised the plant s ceremony.

“It makes me personally feel good that our country takes a certain day out to recognize veterans,” he said. “It s especially important to recognize the people that made the ultimate sacrifice and are continuing to serve.”



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