FORT JENNINGS — Fort Jennings 16-year-old Austin Ricker wants Putnam County servicemen who died in the line of duty to be remembered during this year’s Fort Fest in Fort Jennings that kicks off today and runs through Sunday.
He is the son of Jason and Amy Ricker and is home schooled and works on his family’s hog farm. He also is a a boy scout with Troop 230 in Fort Jennings where for his Eagle Scout project he created a Memorial Field of Heroes project.
The display includes 108 white crosses made of wood that were placed Wednesday night outside the Jennings Memorial Hall at 360 N. Water St. in Fort Jennings that will be on display through Monday.
“This is a small version of Normandy for Putnam County. Each cross stands for one service member in Putnam County who died,” Ricker said. His family has been involved in Fort Fest for several years with his mother serving on the committee. He has attended the fest since he was 9 years old. His Uncle Joe Young is a U.S. Army veteran who served in Afghanistan.
“Each person stands for someone who means something to everyone and this shows respect for them giving up their lives,” Ricker said. He said while he was making the crosses he thought about the families of each veteran left behind as well as the veterans.
His biggest challenge was to make sure his research was complete.
He did research with the help of his mother and Ruth Wilhelm, Putnam County District Library genealogy and local district department head. He used newspaper articles to learn about the classification of each service member that stated how they died, whether they were killed in action, died of wounds or missing in action or declared dead but never found. He used an index that included obituaries and notifications of death of each of the service members.
Once he did research, a Fort Jennings veteran who wished to remain anonymous allowed Ricker to use his shop and tools and assisted Ricker in making the wooden crosses.
After creating the crosses he made a vision board with all of the names of service members who died while serving who are from Putnam County. There are 82 names from World War II, 11 Korean War veterans, 14 Vietnam veterans and one Iraq veteran that are listed on the vision board. The board also has photos of some of the veterans who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Ricker said he did the project to show respect to those who have fought for their country.
Ricker’s mother, Amy, said she is humbled by the work her son did to honor the fallen.
”There is so much healing in this event that this is another piece to be able to share with the public,” Amy said.
The display will be donated to Putnam County Veterans Service Commission who will house the travelling exhibit until another organization wishes to borrow it to display. Families who have photos or any military service information about a deceased Putnam County service member they would like included in the display can contact Austin at firstname.lastname@example.org
Reach Jennifer Peryam at 567-242-0362.