In a ceremony to dedicate a memorial bench at the Ohio Veterans Memorial Park in Clinton, three local families had the opportunity to share their thanks and memories of their loved ones, who each gave their lives during the Vietnam War.

On Aug. 6, family and friends of Sgt. George (Mad Dog) Andrella, Sgt. Gary Pinion and Lt. Corp. Gary M. Moore, all 1967 Manchester High School graduates, learned of their bravery. These Vietnam Veterans are now memorialized on a polished granite bench featuring their photos and years of service. The bench was donated by members of the Manchester High School Class of 1967.  

The Ohio Veterans Memorial Parks allows any group, family member or friend of any veteran from Ohio to raise money to order a memorial bench as a remembrance. Visitors to the park near downtown Clinton will see many memorial benches as the park grows, according to volunteer Gary Kindig.

In May of 2009, the 125-foot long, polished, black granite wall with the names of the 3,095 Ohioans lost during the Vietnam War was dedicated. This was the beginning of the Ohio Veterans' Memorial Park. Since then, volunteers have added the names of all Ohioans who have given their lives during the War on Terror, including the Beirut Bombing, and are planning on adding the names of our Korean War lost.

The park is open 24 hours a day and 365 days a year.

The polished black granite benches surround The Ohio Vietnam Veterans' Memorial Wall and will eventually line the walk way through-out the park. The design of the benches are varied. Benches have been donated by cities, churches, organizations, businesses and alumni.

Kindig, the master of ceremonies for the Aug. 6 dedication, reminded the audience that "freedom is not free." 

He introduced the wife of George Andrella, Pam Andrella who spoke of her husband’s accomplishments. Andrella’s children, Angela, Arica, Austin and Adam also shared memories of their father, fighting through tears. Village of Clinton Mayor Al Knack also recognized Andrella for his service.

Vicki Moore Pietrick spoke for her brother Gary Moore, along with Lizbeth Moore, Gary Moore’s daughter. Lynette Pinion, daughter of Gary Pinion, spoke about her father, and Kindig spoke of his service as well.

Kindig explained that visitors to the park will see coins on the memorial benches and memorials. A penny represents a visitor who did not know the deceased well but wants to pay respect. A nickel represents someone who went through boot camp or training with the fallen. And a dime shows that they served in combat together.

At the bench for Andrella, Moore and Pinion, just minutes after it was unveiled, there were many pennies, nickles and dimes for each veteran.

For more information on how to donate for a memorial bench, go to ovmp.org or call 330-773-2385, or email at info@ovmp.org.