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Published: Friday, 8/13/2010

Dundee Marine isn't letting 22 buddies perish without tribute

BY DENNIS HOWE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A memorial of black granite - punctuated by a fallen Marine's boots, his bayonet-fixed rifle thrust into the ground with his battle helmet resting atop the rifle butt - will be dedicated Saturday to remember 22 Marines who lost their lives in Iraq.

Cpl. Brian Vella of Dundee, Mich., has led the effort to create a 7-foot-high, 12-foot-wide memorial for the members of the Perrysburg Township-based 1st Battalion, 24th Marines who died during the unit's deployment to Iraq in 2007. One of the fallen marines, Lance Cpl. Jeremy S. Shock, was from Tiffin, Ohio.

The dedication will begin at 3 p.m. in Heritage Park in Canton, Mich., and it is open to the public.

"It's something that we felt we needed to do to honor these guys," Corporal Vella said. "A lot of people don't even realize there's a war going on, and here 22 young Americans were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for our flag and our country - and for people they didn't know.

"I just wanted to make sure I was giving them back the same respect, and that I was showing appreciation of their sacrifice, that it wasn't in vain."

The memorial has been the personal project of Corporal Vella, who raised the funds and supervised its construction.

Corporal Vella served with the 1st Battalion in Fallujah from September, 2006, to April, 2007.

"Corporal Vella, on his own time and on his own initiative, started raising the money for this memorial," said Maj. Jeffrey Brooks of the 1st Battalion.

The ceremony will include a brief dedication, color guard, and a few words from Evelyn Burgess, mother of one of the fallen soldiers.

Ohio Pickling & Processing, where Corporal Vella is a production supervisor, also will be presented with the Patriot Award by the National Committee of the Employee Support of the Guard and Reserve.

Employee Support of the Guard and Reserve is a program funded by the Department of Defense to "assist the reservist in building a better relationship between his employer, his reserve unit, and his family," said Terry Witter, a volunteer from Port Clinton who will be part of the ESGR delegation presenting the award to Ohio Pickling of Perrysburg.

"The Patriot Award is a way for a local serviceman to recognize an employer, to make them part of the team," Mr. Witter said.

Servicemen nominate their employer for the award, which was presented to more than 150 employers in northwest Ohio alone from November to May. Corporal Vella said he nominated Ohio Pickling because it held his job during his deployment and donated more than $5,000 to the memorial.

Mary Jo Vella, the corporal's mother and vice president of sales at Ohio Pickling, said her company has employed six reservists in the last four years.

"It's hard on a small company to pull this off. You lose that manpower when they get deployed," she said. "We're really excited about the award. We weren't expecting anything and just to be acknowledged for something when we expected no acknowledgement for - it's a nice thing."

Contact Dennis Howe at:

dhowe@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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