DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – A new monument unveiled Tuesday honors the families of fallen service members.
Paul Zanowick had been looking forward to the dedication ceremony on the grounds outside of the Museum of the U.S. Air Force.
“Freedom isn’t free, there’s a cost of freedom,” explained Zanowick of the memorial’s symbolism.
The Miamisburg father lost his son, Paul “Rocky” Zanowick II, in 2011. The Marine was killed by sniper fire in Afghanistan.
“It’s my mission in life that his sacrifice is never forgotten,” Zanowick said, wearing his son’s dog tags and a button picturing Rocky wearing a combat helmet.
The Zanowick family joined other Gold Star families during an emotional unveiling.
The monument, a black granite, two-sided wall, was donated by the Hershel “Woody” Williams Congressional Medal of Honor Education Foundation, Inc.
Williams is the last surviving WWII Marine who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Since 2013, he’s been fundraising and building Gold Star memorials across the U.S.
“This is long overdue,” Williams said. “We should’ve been doing it a long time ago.”
The memorial unveiled at the Air Force Museum is the 50th of its kind in the U.S., with 45 other monuments underway in 39 states. Williams aims to eventually build at least one in every state and Washington, D.C.
“To some of us, this memorial means more than just another monument,” said Jim Groves, another Gold Star father whose son James Groves III was killed in a helicopter crash in 2013.
Groves helped fundraise and bring the monument to Dayton. He, along with the other Miami Valley Gold Star families lifted a covering to unveil it Tuesday.
Many said they hoped the memorial would help keep their loved ones’ memories alive.
“Our warriors sacrificed their lives for our country,” said Zanowick. “But these Gold Star families, they’ve given so much and they’re still here and they’re still sacrificing on a day to day basis.”