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Published: Thursday, 7/28/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

BGSU to update memorial to fallen ex-student troops

Plaque to add names of at least 19 military heroes

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Jennifer Miller, left, and her niece, Krystin Reiser, help David Ridenour with a project to honor fallen military heroes from Bowling Green State University with a plaque at Memorial Hall. Ms. Miller's brother, Lt. Col. Kevin Sonnenberg, will be on the plaque. Jennifer Miller, left, and her niece, Krystin Reiser, help David Ridenour with a project to honor fallen military heroes from Bowling Green State University with a plaque at Memorial Hall. Ms. Miller's brother, Lt. Col. Kevin Sonnenberg, will be on the plaque.
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BOWLING GREEN -- Phillip Edward Donley graduated from Bowling Green State University in 1964, finished medical school in 1967, and, four years later, the flight surgeon and co-pilot of an F-4 Phantom fighter bomber for the U.S. Air Force died in a plane crash in West Germany.

William Wirick attended BGSU just one semester before he joined the Marines and was killed in combat in Vietnam in 1968. The former Bowsher High School football star was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for using his body to protect a wounded comrade from sniper fire.

The two veterans are among 19 fallen servicemen who attended BGSU but were never recognized in Memorial Hall, a campus building dedicated to BGSU students who lost their lives in service to the United States.

BGSU alumnus David Ridenour is working to change that.

"It's an ongoing project," he said. "We hope to be able to produce a plaque and dedicate it on Veterans Day weekend. In the interim, we're still seeking any names that might have been missed."

When Memorial Hall -- home of the Falcons former basketball arena, Anderson Arena, as well as the Army and Air Force ROTC programs -- was dedicated in 1961, a plaque listing 78 fallen veterans of World War I, World War II, and the Korean War was installed in the lobby. In 1986, the plaque was cleaned and refurbished by the American Legion Buckeye Boys State, which is held each summer at BGSU, but no new names were added.

Mr. Ridenour, a Vietnam veteran and president of the BGSU Army ROTC Alumni Society, said he began looking into updating the roster of fallen heroes in 2008 after Capt. Mike Medders, Jr., a 2005 graduate and ROTC member, was killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq.

"At that time I started looking into it," he said. "Who else have we lost? They should be on this plaque."

With assistance from the BGSU Alumni Association; university, ROTC, and American Legion publications, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, he now has identified 19 fallen heroes -- 11 who were killed in Vietnam, two in Iraq, one in Afghanistan, and five who were killed in plane crashes or training accidents.

Lt. Col. Kevin Sonnenberg, a 1988 BGSU graduate, died in a plane crash in Iraq in 2007. Lt. Col. Kevin Sonnenberg, a 1988 BGSU graduate, died in a plane crash in Iraq in 2007.
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Jennifer Miller of McClure said she contacted Mr. Ridenour after hearing about his project. Her brother, Lt. Col. Kevin Sonnenberg, a 1988 BGSU graduate, died in Iraq in an Air Force plane crash in 2007.

She said her brother would be glad to know that he and the other servicemen are being memorialized on campus.

"I think it's important to remember all the men and women who sacrificed everything," Ms. Miller said.

"They put their lives on the line for everything we take for granted. It's important to remember their lives and who they are."

Jerry White, director of the American Legion's Buckeye Boys State program, said the organization plans to raise the money to pay for the new plaque both as a tribute to the veterans, some of whom attended Boys State themselves, and to BGSU, where the week-long mock government program has been held since 1978.

"We thought that would be fitting to do for the university's 100th anniversary and our 75th to refurbish that plaque, add on to it, bring that plaque back up to prominence in Anderson Arena," Mr. White said.

Mr. Ridenour said he has visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington several times and twice has served as a volunteer guardian for Honor Flight, which takes World War II veterans to Washington to see their memorial.

"Just being a Vietnam veteran and knowing the reception we had when we came home, I feel very strongly about honoring those who gave everything," he said.

In addition to engraving the names on a plaque, Mr. Ridenour is compiling a book with photos and information about the lives -- and deaths -- of the veterans.

He asks that anyone with information about a former BGSU student who lost his or her life in service to the country contact him at djride@wcnet.org.

In addition to Colonel Sonnenberg, Captain Medders, Corporal Wirick, and Major Donley, those whose names are to be added to the plaque are: Maj. Clyde Wilson Enderle, 1st Lt. Douglas C. Mabee, Marine Cpl. Steve Victor Mylant, Marine Cpl. Daniel Louis Pucci, 2nd Lt. Stephen Walter Young, 1st Lt. Charles Thomas Jones, Capt. Roger Behnfeldt, 1st Lt. Terry Moore, Air Force 2nd Lt. Rick Robeson, Lt. Col. Thomas Belkofer, 2nd Lt. Dale Haven, 1st Lt. Robert Roy Dimick, 1st Lt. Paul Douglas Strahm, Pfc. Timothy Edward Shanower, and Sgt. Stephen Paul Shaner.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-724-6129.



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