WAYNESFIELD — Staff Sgt. Sonny Zimmerman was regarded as a hometown hero in the small community of Waynesfield even before his tragic death earlier this month.
That’s why, when the soldier was being brought home for good, the whole town seemed more than willing to show its respect and support.
Zimmerman's remains arrived via plane at Allen County Airport Thursday morning at around 9:20 a.m. From there, he was transported via East Hanthorn Road to Bellefontaine Road, through Westminster, before turning right onto Waynesfield Road and heading south toward Waynesfield.
American flags stuck out of the ground throughout the Westminster and Waynesfield communities, and flags outlined the grass at Waynesfield-Goshen High School. Flags were also hung at half staff from telephone poles in Waynesfield.
From the traffic light at the junction of state Routes 196 and 67 hung a banner that read, “Our fallen hero. Staff Sgt. Sonny Zimmerman.”
Rolling Thunder, a non-profit organization that serves as a prisoner of war, missing in action and veterans concerns group, helped put together Thursday's events.
“He’s one of their own,” Rolling Thunder representative Jeff McDougle said. “This town takes great pride in the fact that he is one of their own, and they want to bring him home with honor and respect.”
Zimmerman, 25, was killed on July 16 in Afghanistan as a result of injuries he sustained when his mounted patrol was attacked by a rocket-propelled grenade. He was a squad leader in charge of the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. He earned a Purple Heart along with three other Army commendation medals.
Zimmerman left behind a wife, the former Morgan McGhee, who survives in Lima, and a daughter, Riley McVicker.
The procession headed south on Westminster Street before turning left on East Wapakoneta Street and arriving at Armentrout Funeral Home. The procession included emergency vehicles from several surrounding communities, along with as many as 200 motorcycle riders.
“This is what we should be about,” McDougle said. “This country was founded on a belief in freedom, and along with that should come the honor and respect for these men and women that sometimes get put on the back burner. It’s nice to see the honor being paid to one of our fallen heroes, and at the same time you really hope that this is sort of an uplift that the family needs at this time.”
Visitation runs from 1 to 4 and 6 to 9 p.m. today at Waynesfield-Goshen High School. Funeral services will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday at the high school, with burial following at Walnut Hill Cemetery, New Hampshire, Ohio.
Staff Sgt. Sonny C. Zimmerman