At the northeast corner of Sycamore and Maple Streets, the two primary arteries which crisscross North Lewisburg, stands an old, red brick building which has served as a pharmacy, jewelry store, and currently as a realty office. On the building's western wall is a unique memorial...a Roll of Honor...which lists the names of the young men and women of the community who went off to fight the nation's wars.
The original Roll of Honor was a hand-painted memorial on a wall of yet another of the town's buildings. It was created in World War I to honor the town's residents who were engaged in that conflict. As time passed, that memorial was "moved" to the red brick building, and graced that wall until another conflict - World War II - beckoned yet other men and women to service.
The names of the World War I veterans who appeared on the first Roll of Honor, and the graphics which accompanied those names, were eventually diminished in size and cast as a bronze plaque. This plaque was then attached to the stone base of the flagpole which stands at the entrance to Maple Grove Cemetery, on Gilbert Road, a mile or so from the town.
As World War II progressed, the names of the community's servicemen and servicewomen were hand-painted. Graphic representations of the American eagle, with outstretched wings, the flag, and stars adorned the wall. When word was received that one of the town's men was killed in battle, a bright, gold star was added in front of his name. Over the course of the four years of war, the number of names - and the number of gold stars - painted on the wall grew. By war's end, there were columns of names and stars.
The Roll of Honor remained that way until a new war broke out in Korea in 1950. Once again, the youth of North Lewisburg answered the call to duty. The wall was repainted to show the names not just of the veterans of World War II, but also those of the Korean War.
Years passed, and a new generation of youth was called to service in Viet Nam. New names appeared on the wall where there had only recently been blank spaces. Walter R. Burroughs, a young Private First Class serving with the U. S. Army in Viet Nam in 1966, was the first to be listed as a casualty of that war...in point of fact, he was the first casualty from Champaign County to be killed in that conflict.
Over the course of the next two decades, the wall and the Roll of Honor took on a new look. Practically all of the space on the wall was filled with the names of veterans from those three major conflicts: World War II, Korea, and Viet Nam. Occasionally, the fading paint was restored to brilliance, and a name which might have been overlooked was squeezed onto the wall wherever it was possible. But weather and time took its toll on the Roll of Honor.
In 1994, there was a concerted effort on the part of the community to build a new, more lasting tribute to the town's veterans. A fund-raising project was organized, and soon a new marble memorial, complete with etched names, floodlights, benches, and flagpole was erected and dedicated in a small park - where once the old high school had stood - on East Street, a few blocks further east of the Sycamore-Maple Street intersection. The bronze plaque bearing the names of the World War I veterans was removed from Maple Grove Cemetery, and attached in a place of honor on the new memorial. I'm proud of the fact that my name appears on that memorial.
After 1994, the old, original wall remained on the red brick building, the paint blistered, faded, and in sorry need of repair. It had been thought that the new memorial would quietly replace the old, painted Roll of Honor. But old things and old traditions have the habit of continuing.
The Roll of Honor, silent sentinel of the community's appreciation of liberty, has just recently received new paint. The names stand out once again, their numbers bearing visual proof of the sacrifices which must be made for freedom.
If you, the reader, should someday make your way to or through North Lewisburg, Ohio, pull your vehicle aside somewhere near the intersection of Sycamore and Maple Streets. Get out, and walk the short distance to that old, red brick building. Let your eyes wander over the many names you will see there. Heroes, some; patriots, all. Maybe you will find some name which stands out, or which gives you pause to reflect. Or, perhaps like me, you will be able to find one of those very special stars of the fallen - like my Dad - who gave all of their tomorrows for us. I made it a habit a long time ago in my youth, and continue it now in my advanced years whenever I return to the old hometown, to reach out and touch his star.
But, if you cannot journey to the Roll of Honor, pause where you are in your own community, and take the time to thank a veteran.