Honoring Our Local Patriots
A Memorial Day Column by State Senator Troy Balderson

Memorial Day is a time to honor and express our gratitude for the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice in their service for our country. Many of the unique freedoms we enjoy as Americans have been paid for through the sacrifices of patriots. On behalf of a grateful nation, I encourage all Ohioans to take this opportunity to express our appreciation for the service members and their families who have proudly sacrificed so much.

Memorial Day is a time for all of us to pay tribute to our local heroes, such as Army Specialist Gerald Jenkins and Army Private First Class Kevin Ott. Both young men were killed in combat while serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

Gerald, a Circleville High School graduate and avid Buckeyes fan, joined the army in 2008 at the age of 17, after receiving his diploma. Army Specialist Jenkins was killed on October 20, 2010 when an improvised explosive device detonated while his unit was on foot patrol in Maquan, Afghanistan. Just before his death, the 19-year-old combat engineer decided to re-enlist in the army to continue serving his country.

Kevin lived in Darby Township and attended Westfall High School, where he played basketball and football. After attending Bluffton College for one year, Kevin enlisted in the military shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001. Two years into his service in Iraq, Kevin was killed in action south of Balad, Iraq. Kevin was one of the first Americans killed during the Iraq War. 

The Ohio General Assembly honored the service and sacrifice of these brave men by renaming portions of U.S. 23 and U.S. 62 in Pickaway County the “Army Specialist Gerald R. Jenkins Memorial Highway” and the “Army PFC Kevin C. Ott Memorial Highway” respectively. Nothing can replace Gerald and Kevin; however, I encourage you to reflect on their sacrifices as you travel these highways.

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