Freedom Grove Park will be lined with the red, white and blue Sept. 11-13 as part of several events taking place to commemorate the 14th anniversary of Sept. 11.
Nestled between state Route 55 and U.S. Route 68 (in front of the Champaign County Community Center), the park will host the Ohio Flags of Honor Memorial for three days beginning on Friday.
“We are going to have 290-plus American flags at Freedom Grove Park, each one with the name of a solider from Ohio who was killed in Iraq or Afghanistan since 9/11,” said Terry Rittenhouse, event chairman and member of the Freedom Grove Park Committee. “In addition, there will also be 450 tribute flags, so in all, there will be around 750 3-by-5 American flags adorning the park this weekend.”
While the Freedom Grove Park Committee is organizing the event, Rittenhouse said, the ORBIS Corporation donated the funds to bring the memorial to town.
“A lady who works at ORBIS actually got all of this rolling,” he said. “Her son was killed in Iraq.”
Setup for the memorial is expected to begin Thursday evening, and volunteers are needed to help install the display. Individuals interested in helping are asked to arrive at Freedom Grove Park at 5 p.m., and the memorial is expected to take a few hours to set up.
The official opening ceremony for the Ohio Flags of Honor Memorial will take place at 10:30 a.m. Friday when keynote speaker Vincent L. Foulk introduces the memorial. Foulk, an Urbana attorney and U.S. Army Reserve veteran, formerly worked for the U.S. Department of Defense as an advisor on legal issues in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The flag display, which will be guarded all three nights and lit up on Friday and Saturday nights compliments of Sunbelt Rentals, will be taken down Sunday afternoon.
“This is a wonderful event for Freedom Grove Park and the community,” Rittenhouse said. “This is what the park was made for, and we are pleased groups like the Ohio Flags of Honor Memorial want to spend time here with us,” Rittenhouse said.
In honor of Patriot Day on Friday, a morning-long ceremony will be held in the city beginning at 6:45 a.m. in Monument Square when first responders and military members will come together to lower the large American flag in the square.
Following the downtown ceremony, the community is invited to join local first responders and military members at Freedom Grove Park to honor those who lost their lives during the Sept. 11 attacks. The ceremony at the park will include Reveille and the singing of the national anthem at 8 a.m., followed by speeches from local leaders. At 8:46 a.m., a moment of silence will take place at the exact time the North Tower of the World Trade Center was struck, and moments of silence will also be held at the exact times the other planes crashed that morning as well as when both towers fell.
Following the morning ceremonies, a free lunch will be served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the park compliments of Pepsi, Bauer Stoves, Peoples Savings Bank and Raging Bull Wood-Fired Pizza.
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.