OTTAWA — Boy Scout Ethan Burgoon holds a white, wooden cross steady as he fastens it to a small metal post.
The cross stands in memory of Marine Lance Cpl. Christopher B. Wasser, a 21-year-old Ottawa resident who died in April 2004 after being wounded in an attack in Husaybah, Al-Anbar Province, Iraq.
It is a reminder of Wasser’s sacrifice, and the first of 197 crosses he installed on Saturday afternoon in Ottawa's City Park.
As Burgoon puts the cross in place, his leader, Scout Master Chuck Stevens, can’t help but pause.
Wasser was a member of Stevens’ Boy Scout Troop 77, and knew the Marine from the time he was just a Cub Scout, so this cross has a special meaning.
“This one hits a little close to home,” he said.
Burgoon, 14 and a freshman at Ottawa High School, installed the crosses for his Eagle Scout service project as a reminder of the number of Franklin County lives lost to war.
The idea for the war memorial actually started with Ray Shumate, who has helped organize the community Veterans Day celebration for several years. Shumate wanted to do something new that would add to the hundreds of flags displayed throughout City Park and along Main Street. That is when he decided to have a display honoring those Franklin County residents who were killed in action.
“I wanted the crosses, but I knew there was no way I could get it done,” he said.
Shumate talked to Stevens and Ethan’s grandfather, Richard Burgoon, about the idea. Soon, they proposed it to Ethan.
“It didn’t seem like it would be a difficult project,” he said. “And my grandpa’s a vet, so it was close to home for me.”
Once he received approval, Ethan got started with project planning and asking for donations to cover expenses. A few weeks ago, Ethan, his grandfather and other scouts assembled the crosses, which took nearly five hours to put together and paint.
On Saturday, Shumate watched as Ethan began putting the crosses in place amid the hundreds of American flags whipping in a cool November breeze. Those flags were installed earlier that morning by Boy Scout Troop 74 and Cub Scout Pack 3079.
“You see all of this,” he said. “It’s all done for the love of it.”
Stevens and Ethan carefully measured out the rows before staking each spot where a cross would be located. The crosses are grouped by war: World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq. A pathway also has been developed, allowing onlookers to read the individual names displayed on each cross.
“You don’t really think about how big a toll a war is even on Franklin County, as small as it is,” Ethan said. “I didn’t think much about it, but once you see it, it’s a big thing.
“I really didn’t know that because they really don’t teach us that anymore.”
Ethan’s troop also helped assemble war re-enactment sites Saturday morning at Forest Park.
With his project completed, Ethan will wait before receiving approval and eventually earning the rank of Eagle Scout.