Memorial wall in Elkhart for fallen heroes

By: Nick McGurk Email
By: Nick McGurk Email

On a patch of grass in Elkhart, Indiana, stands a wall of this state’s heroes.

"We had an officer pass away in December on duty, he had a heart attack while he was on call, Mike Swygart,” said Sgt. Travis Snider with Elkhart Police.

From Cpl. Mike Swygart of Elkhart, to Cpl. Jim Szuba of Mishawka, to military heroes like Lance Cpl. Joshua Birchfield of Westville.

All, of Indiana; and all, Americans.

"We're all brothers and sisters, no matter where,” said Bill Rogers. He and his wife Anne are from Tennessee and happened to be passing through Elkhart.

"We were reading the paper and we saw this ceremony, so we just came,” Anne said.

They came to watch and were then asked if they wouldn’t mind lending a hand. Sunday’s ceremony involved people walking up to the wall and placing a framed photo next to other faces.

"Certainly it's an honor to do so,” said Bill, who served in the Navy for 20 years. Each face, he says, is a life worth honoring.

"One of our nation's heroes,” he said of one photo he placed on the wall.

Another hero, Rogers says, is his son, who was killed in the line of duty more than a decade ago.

“They were hit with a missile and shot the plane down, and all 14 crew members were lost,” said Rogers.

Though the ceremony honors those who passed over the last year, and the Rogers’ lost their son more than a decade ago, not a day goes by without remembering.

“Moms and dads feel it more than most,” said Bill.

"We pray for their moms and dads,” said Anne, his wife.

So this mom and dad are paying tribute far from home – to those in the military; to those who fight fire and crime; to those whose loss mirrors their own.

"We just think our son is part of that line of heroes,” said Anne.

For those who want to check out the wall, it is located at 508 Oakland Ave. in Elkhart.

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