It was September 2, 1945 – and officially the end of World War II. With varying statistics, depending on who has done the research, the numbers of dead vary between 50 and 80 million soldiers, and 50 – 55 million civilians. For the residents of Muskingum County, Zanesville, Ohio, a town of fewer than 25,000 residents in 2010, 297 of those deaths represented personal loss and life-changing events. These were their sons, dads, husbands, brothers, uncles and the future of their family. This is a place of war soldiers remembered. This is not a history lesson on war, nor on the results of war and conflict. It is a time of reflection and remembering those who have served in all wars and conflicts to preserve the freedoms that I so often take for granted.
War Soldiers Remembered
On the corner of 5th and Main Street in Zanesville, Ohio there is a unique corner-lot memorial dedicated to the 297 fallen soldiers of Muskingum County, Ohio. These men served in World War II and the Korean War. Each helmet is inscribed with the name of a particular soldier who paid forward his life for our freedom. Standing in front of the Pile of Helmets is a lone soldier, perhaps on guard, or maybe showing the hard lines of bewilderment about his fallen buddies.
Directly behind the Pile of Helmets are two larger than life bronze soldiers. I approach them with a sense of respect, quiet reserve, and feelings of something near apology for my intrusion in this sacred moment of raw emotion.
Walking in close I look up into the face of this soldier statue, his features set permanently in bronze. Tears flow steadily from my eyes as I gaze upon him, this representative of every fallen soldier. I think of the price he has paid, and the toll exacted upon every member of his family. Tears of sadness course down my face as I think of the families who have picked up the broken pieces of their lives after they received the telegram, KIA (Killed in Action). I know something about those telegrams. I’ve read the diaries of my Aunt when her only child died February 11, 1945, in the push toward Berlin.
One Soldier All Played Out, Another Being the Encourager
I want to see the face of the soldier, and so I step in closer. I know it is a bronze statue. I know the war for him ceased many years ago. I know this statue has never experienced a drop of emotion – yet I apologize for the intrusion. He is so compassionately and attentively looking to the needs of his buddy that he doesn’t even notice me. I think of the moments of war when this love and care have played out in the lives of our soldiers, moments multiplied by the millions, and I again find a heart of gratitude for the supreme sacrifice they have made.
Zanesville Is a Place that Remembers the Fallen
When I stood quietly on that billowy day in Zanesville, reading the individual plaques, my thoughts lingered on that Bible verse from John 15:13. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Perhaps that is what drew me to the face of the bronze statue. The face etched permanently with care and compassion for his injured comrade depicted a willingness to lay down his own life if necessary for that of his buddy. Jesus willingly did that for me 2000 years ago at Calvary. Not for any evil He had done, and not for any good that I had done. He demonstrated His great love, and lay down in death to make the ultimate sacrifice that I might live. His sacrifice was perfect and complete. The cross is His memorial and I do well to remember and be thankful.
I plan to return to Zanesville. I want my husband to visit the Pile of Helmets with me. I’ve been to the Iwo Jima Memorial, The Arizona, Vietnam Wall, Arlington Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and countless small town places of memory. When I see a memorial that has been established it is a reminder to remember – a visual call to come away from the routine for a few moments. A specific time and place established for reflection. Those who have set that memorial have sacrificed the presence of a loved one. I choose to take a moment in my routine to whisper a prayer of thanksgiving for the left behind.
Have you been to Zanesville, Ohio? What are some of the memorials you have visited that have deeply touched your soul?