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Veterans honored with béisbol, ceremonies, fireworks

By Ingrid Marie Rivera, La Prensa Correspondent

LORAIN: Fireworks lit up the sky for a solemn ceremony. Motorcycles circled the grounds, baseballs were pitched and one singer performed “Amazing Grace,” to a crowd of roughly 800 people—all to honor local heroes.

Lorain County veterans, fallen troops, and all those currently serving in the U.S. Military were honored this past weekend at Lorain’s Pipe Yard with a baseball game and symbolic ceremonies.

Sgt. Alexis Acosta, cadet of the Southview JROTC, ignites the lone candle in the center of the table set at home plate during the POW/MIA ceremony.

“It’s always great to pay tribute to those who have given their all for us,” said U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton (OH-13), “It’s an exciting event,” she said before throwing the ceremonial first pitch.

Several local dignitaries began the evening of Sept. 12, 2009 in a pre-game ceremony and presented U.S. flags to the families of five fallen troops.

The five included: Marine Lance Cpl. David R. Hall, 31, Lorain native, the eighth Lorain County serviceman to die serving overseas since 2004 and the first in Afghanistan; Air Force Airman 1st Class Eric M. Barnes, 20, of Lorain, killed in Iraq by a roadside bomb in 2007; Army Sgt. Daniel Michael Shepherd, 23 of Elyria, killed in Iraq in 2004; Army Sgt. Norman Lane Tollett, 30, of Elyria, killed in Iraq in 2007; and Army Spc. Jason N. Cox, 21, of Elyria, killed in Iraq in 2008 by a roadside bomb.

Hall, a 1997 Southview High School graduate, died Aug. 31, 2009, from injuries he sustained from a roadside bomb while patrolling in Afghanistan.

“It really makes us feel good that the community has come together to support us. This is really something else” said Shary Barnes, mother of Eric Barnes, as she sat watching the game with family, friends, and neighbors. His father Tom Barnes and younger brother Dale Barnes were among them.

She said one of her most cherished memories of her son Eric was “being able to go to Texas when he graduated from bootcamp and see the man that he turned into. It was a wonderful experience; it’s something I’ll cherish forever,” she said.

Lorain Mayor Tony Krasienko presented a flag to the Barnes family, and said this is “in honor of your service to our community, our country. It’s a debt we cannot repay.”

Elyria Mayor Bill Grace presented a flag to the Tollett family and also said the sacrifices will never be forgotten.

Singer DD Magdalena, Elyria Videographer Joseph Carrion, and singer Ashley Collazo sell copies of their work. Magdalena sang the national anthem, Carrion created the documentary "Ohio Raises Heroes," and Collazo performed "Amazing Grace" at the Military Tribute Night at the Pipe Yard to honor the troops. Plans are underway to make the event annual.

U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton presented a flag to the Shepherd family.

“You will always be a part of our family,” she said. She then turned to the crowd and said “to the veterans in the crowd, we thank you for your services.”

The Hall family arrived later in the night and received a standing ovation from the crowd.

Several threw out the ceremonial first pitch including: Sutton, Krasienko, Grace, Marine Corps Veteran Dave Clark, Lorain Southview JROTC instructor 1st Sgt. Sam A. Obechi, Dorothy McGuire, the first woman ever to be named Veteran of the Year, Joe Filak, manager of turf operations at Pipe Yard and Rey Carrion, president of Lorain is ProBaseball and organizer.

DD Magdalena of Lorain performed the U.S. National Anthem.

Obechi said “it feels really good to honor these veterans that have sacrificed their lives in our nation’s defense. We honor those that are currently serving and those that served in the past. They are the ones that made our country what it is today. Their families have also sacrificed. This is for all veterans,” he said.

The military tribute game, which was rescheduled twice, was supposed to feature the Military All-Stars vs. the Latin All-stars, two traveling teams consisting of active military members.

But many of the players were deployed to Afghanistan.

In their place, students from different Northeast Ohio high schools were selected and faced off in the Lorain County All-Stars vs. the Cuyahoga County All-Stars teams. Their T-shirts displayed the names of the five fallen soldiers.

The game began in a tight competition with the Lorain County All-Stars slightly leading 2-1.

But by the 4th inning, the Lorain County All-Stars gained momentum and scored 6 more runs. They held onto their lead and finished off 9-1.

Kory Hall, 16, of Strongsville High School and playing on the Cuyahoga team, said “it’s nice to play” in an event honoring troops. He said his grandfather served in the military and his parents actually met while both serving in the Army.

Justin Kidd, 16, of Wellington High School and playing on the Lorain County team, was placing an ice pack near his right elbow while in the dug out. He said his arm was somewhat sore after pitching for the first three innings. But “it’s a pleasure to play,” he said.

“[Because] the military teams were deployed, I thought I’d do my best to honor those people serving our country,” Kidd said. He added he has friends serving in the military and his grandfather served in the Army and his Great Uncle was killed serving in the Korean War.

The Military All-Stars, based in Boston, MA, and the Latin-All Stars – with Latino players of Mexican, Dominican, Puerto Rican, and Costa Rican heritage—were founded by retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. Terry Allvord.

Southview JROTC carry flags into field for the pregame ceremony.

Allvord said in a previous interview with La Prensa that such tribute events are important because the audience will be able to see the military members in a different light and become more aware of the reality of the ongoing war.

He warned “[Unlike] what the media sometimes reports, many are being deployed back to Afghanistan for their second or third tour. I’m having a hard time keeping my team together,” he had said.

At the bottom of the third inning, members of the Southview JROTC Color Guard and Honor Guard participated in a POW/MIA ceremony. A table with five empty chairs and one lone candle lit was set near home plate representing the missing or fallen troops.

Veterans on motorcycles rode for 98 miles throughout Ohio and as night fell, they circled the baseball diamond with their lights brightly lit in honor of the fallen 98 Lorain County Vietnam Veterans. Seven of the fallen were Latinos and some members of the Sacred Heart Chapel.

Ashley Collazo sang “Amazing Grace” in a field illuminated only by the motorcycles’ lights, and fireworks began after the motorcycles drove off the field.

The film “Ohio Raises Heroes,” created by Elyria Videographer Joseph Carrión, was shown after the fireworks. The hour-long documentary featured stories and family interviews of the Ohio fallen troops.

“I know these families are hurting; I figured I needed to do something,” were the thoughts Carrión had that led him to produce the documentary, he said. “This war out there is still ongoing.

That’s one thing that makes it really hit home when [the teams] can’t show up because they are getting shipped out there,” he said.


Cadets from the Southview High School JROTC participate in the POW/MIA ceremony.

Cadets from the Southview High School JROTC participate in the POW/MIA ceremony.

Players from the Lorain County All-Stars team wait for their turn to play in the dugout.

Elyria Mayor Bill Grace presents flag to the Tollett family.

Lorain Mayor Tony Krasienko (far right) presents a flag to the Barnes family.

U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton (OH-13) addresses the crowd. Behind her stand Elyria Mayor Bill Grace, Lorain Mayor Tony Krasienko and another member of the Sutton office.

The family of fallen Air Force Airman 1st Class Eric Barnes. In front is Shary Barnes, mother, Tom Barnes, father and Dale Barnes, brother.

A player from the Cuyahoga County All-Stars team prepares to bat.





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