By Bethany J. Royer
PIQUA — Representing the Friends of the Piqua Parks, Ruth Koon, took to the podium at Tuesday’s commission to discuss the group’s next phase in making the area parks system, “The best it can be here in our community.”
Along with a few members including Don Smith, Glenn Devers, and Chuck Peltier, Koon explained that after a successful campaign for new landscaping at Pitsenbarger Park (A project to begin in September), the next campaign is to erect a statue in tribute to community hero, William H. Pitsenbarger.
Parks member Devers provided the history on the Piqua native U.S. Air Force Pararescueman and medical specialist who repeatedly showed courage and bravery while serving in the Vietnam War.
“He voluntarily left the relative safety of his helicopter to descend into the brutal jungle to treat and evacuate wounded soldiers,” said Devers of the young hero Pitsenbarger back in 1966 and credited with saving the lives of nine others. “Several times he refused to evacuate himself, he was eventually shot, four times, and died in the jungles of Vietnam still holding his M16 rifle.”
Pitsenbarger was posthumously awarded the Airforce Cross in 1966.
In 1993, Pitsenbarger’s fellow graduating Piqua classmates and the Chamber of Commerce convinced the city of Piqua to rename the 65-acre Eisenhower Park to Pitsenbarger Sports Complex.
“More than a dozen military facilities around the world have been named for Pitsenbarger since his death,” continued Devers, with continued efforts by classmates and testimony from fellow soldiers leading to Pitsenbarger being awarded the prestigious Medal of Honor in 2000.
The Medal of Honor was accepted by Frank Pitsenbarger, William’s father, in what Devers says was a very emotional ceremony held in Dayton.
Stating that the time is not only right, but long overdue, Devers along with the Friends of the Piqua Parks will begin a campaign to raise funds so as to erect a statue for a hometown hero. According to Koon, the statue is budgeted at $90,000 that would include a concrete pad, a five-foot high granite pedestal, and the statue of Pitsenbarger.
The group has already received a generous donation of $30,000 towards the project, leaving the group to raise $60,000, with applications to area foundations, and hope to have the hometown behind them.
Citing the motto to never leave a wounded warrior behind, Koon closed the presentation with a request that, “As a community let’s not forget this courageous warrior, William Pitsenbarger.”
For more information contact the Friends of Piqua Parks or the city manager’s office at 778-8300.
Bethany J. Royer may be reached at (937) 773-2721 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall