Wood County Veterans Memorial

Medal of Honor recipient receives hero’s welcome home

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Veterans of ages gathered on the grounds of the Wood County Courthouse Wednesday morning to honor one of their own – the only local veteran to receive the Medal of Honor since the members of Andrews Raiders during the Civil War. “Not one of us who has served considers ourselves heroic,” said Dave Ridenour, of American Legion Post 45 in Bowling Green. “We are ordinary citizens, who at time performed extraordinary feats.” While many are brave – very few qualify as heroic, Ridenour said. “But today we are celebrating a true hero,” he said. U.S. Navy Master Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward C. Byers, Jr. – who is a native of Grand Rapids and 1997 graduate of Otsego High School – was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2016 for actions in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. And on Wednesday, the Medal of Honor monument at the courthouse was unveiled with Byers name etched in along with the Civil War soldiers honored long ago. Veteran Jim Carter listens during program. Byers earned the honor during a night in December 2012, when his unit rescued Dr. Dilip Joseph from the Taliban deep in the remote mountains of eastern Afghanistan. After walking four hours in the freezing night to reach the Taliban camp, Byers was the second SEAL through the door of a tiny, one-room building where Joseph was held hostage. Byers killed two armed Taliban fighters before identifying Joseph and shielding him from harm. As bullets flew across the room, Byers leaped on top the doctor, using his own body armor to shield the captive as his fellow SEALs exchanged gunfire with enemy fighters. As Byers protected Joseph, he spotted an AK-47-wielding Taliban guard just inches away. He continued to shield Joseph with his body as he grabbed the gunman by the throat, pinning him to a wall long enough for another SEAL to shoot him dead. His good friend Petty Officer 1st Class Nicolas Checque was shot after being the first man through the door during the rescue. Once outside, Byers, a medic, turned his attention to Checque, spending the 40-minute flight back to Bagram Airfield trying to resuscitate his friend. Checque was declared dead at the American base. “His bold and decisive actions under fire saved the lives of the hostage and several of his teammates,” Wood County Veterans Assistance Center Executive…


Medal of Honor recipient to attend local memorial unveiling

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Wood County will have a certified hero in its midst next week when his name is unveiled on the Medal of Honor monument in front of the Wood County Courthouse. U.S. Navy Master Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward C. Byers, Jr., will be recognized on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. on the front lawn of the county courthouse. Byers, a native of Grand Rapids and 1997 graduate of Otsego High School, was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2016 for actions in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. In a story in the military’s “Stars and Stripes” publication, Byers described the night in December 2012, when his unit rescued Dr. Dilip Joseph from the Taliban deep in the remote mountains of eastern Afghanistan. After walking four hours in the freezing night to reach the Taliban camp, Byers was the second SEAL through the door of a tiny, one-room building where Joseph was held hostage. Byers killed two armed Taliban fighters before identifying Joseph and shielding him from harm. As bullets flew across the room, Byers leaped on top the doctor, using his own body armor to shield the captive as his fellow SEALs exchanged gunfire with enemy fighters. As Byers protected Joseph, he spotted an AK-47-wielding Taliban guard just inches away. He continued to shield Joseph with his body as he grabbed the gunman by the throat, pinning him to a wall long enough for another SEAL to shoot him dead, according to the Stars and Stripes. His good friend Petty Officer 1st Class Nicolas Checque was shot after being the first man through the door during the rescue. Once outside, Byers, a medic, turned his attention to Checque, spending the 40-minute flight back to Bagram Airfield trying to resuscitate his friend. Checque was declared dead at the American base. Byers is just the sixth Navy SEAL in history to be awarded the Medal of Honor. He’s the 11th living American service member to receive the medal for actions in Afghanistan. When presenting the award, President Barack Obama called Byers “a special breed of warrior that so often serves in the shadows.” The hostage, who was in Afghanistan to establish medical facilities, was told “the Americans are not coming for you,” Obama said. “They were wrong.” The president talked of Byers’ childhood in Grand Rapids, where he would play in the woods with friends, wearing…


Veterans memorial area to be expanded on courthouse grounds

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Wood County officials and veterans believe those who gave their lives for their country deserve better. So nearly two decades after it was first proposed, plans are underway to expand the veterans memorial area in front of the Wood County Courthouse. Though the plans aren’t completed, and the fundraising has yet to begin, a preliminary proposal for the area was presented Thursday to the county commissioners by Rob Eaton, head of courthouse complex security, and Steve Blausey, head of county maintenance. “It’s such a small area out there, they can’t hold ceremonies,” Eaton said of veterans groups. “We want a presentable, honorable area.” Some of the monuments to veterans are quite worn by the weather, and some recent wars are not recognized in the current memorial area on the west corner of the lawn in front of the courthouse. Eaton and Blausey hope the project can be completed in time for the county’s bicentennial in 2020. The estimated cost for the project is $300,000. The preliminary plans call for the cleaning and moving of the existing monuments on the grounds, plus the addition of others. The memorial area will remain on the west side of courthouse front lawn, but will be expanded. A retaining wall with wrought iron fence is proposed along the North Prospect Street sidewalk. Lining that area will be six monuments – one for Civil War veterans, one for World War I and World War II, one for the Korean War, one for the Vietnam War, and one for Persian Gulf wars. Space will be left for a memorial to future wars. Currently there is no monument for post 9/11 veterans. “We need to honor those veterans,” Eaton said. “And we need the ability to expand. Unfortunately, there will be future conflicts.” Further to the east in the veterans memorial area will be a Gold Star memorial and the Congressional Medal monument. Benches are planned along the sidewalk leading to the courthouse, and a couple picnic tables are planned for under the large tree near the courthouse. “We’re saving the big tree,” Blausey told the commissioners. The city arborist inspected the tree and said it’s good for another 50 years, he added. However, some of the smaller ornamental trees will have to be removed. Plans call for the entire memorial area to be concrete, possibly stamped or colored. “It’s going…