The honor, courage and commitment of one local man inspired a monument dedicated Saturday in Island Park in Mt. Pleasant in honor of the many soldiers who have sacrificed their lives in the Iraq war.
Nearly 200 people gathered to view the unveiling of the monument, a bronze field cross with the inscription, "In honor of all who have served in Operation Iraqi Freedom Operation Enduring Freedom. Never forget those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. In memory of LCPL Justin M. Ellsworth USMC Charlie Co. 7th ESB Combat Engineer 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion.“
Marine Lance Cpl. Justin M. Ellsworth, a 2003 Mt. Pleasant High School graduate, was killed Nov. 13, 2004, while serving in Iraq. He earned the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his service.
Before the dedication, cars poured into the north end of the park.
kWe are pleasantly surprised by the turnout,“ said John Ellsworth, Justin's father. "We are just amazed at the support of the Mt. Pleasant community as a whole; even complete strangers. We know they are keeping Justin in their prayers.“
Matching blue T-shirts dotted the crowd; a show of solidarity and support from Justin's family and friends. The T-shirts were designed by Justin's friends and originally worn at his funeral. They were made available to family members as well, John Ellsworth said.
On the front the shirts read "In loving memory of 05 Justin M. Ellsworth.“ The 05, Justin's football and hockey number, was repeated on the back above the word Tweeter, Justin's nickname, from the movie "[Varsity] Blues.“ Stylized initials, JME, on the sleeves mimic Justin's tattoo.
The field cross – which is a soldier's rifle shoved barrel first into the ground, topped with a soldier's helmet and flanked by his boots – and the plaque rest on a concrete pedestal and are joined by a 20-foot bronze flag pole that holds a United States flag and a smaller flag with the saying "Less They Be Forgotten.“
"This is a perfect setting to recognize all the veterans past, present and future,“ said state Rep. Bill Caul, R-Mt. Pleasant. Caul read letters from President George W. Bush and Fourth District Congressman Dave Camp, R-Midland. "So we don't forget the sacrifice of the men and women who gave everything to protect our freedoms.“
Initially conceived as a memorial for Justin, the idea to create a monument for all soldiers gained rapid acceptance.
"Justin wouldn't have wanted this to be about him,“ John Ellsworth said. "He was always about the big picture. We pray that no one else has to have their names on that monument, but if so, Justin will be there to greet them with open arms.“
A proud Marine, Justin died doing what he loved, fellow soldier Cpl. Shane Partlo said. Partlo served with Ellsworth for about eight months before they were deployed to Iraq.
"Justin died saving countless others,“ Partlo said. "He was proud to get up in the morning and do what he did. There is a time for mourning and a time for remembrance. Let us put the time for mourning behind us. Let us not remember how he died. Let us remember how he lived.“
Ellsworth lived his life according to the three core values of the Marine Corps that he loved: honor, courage and commitment, Partlo said.
Justin's American flag was raised during the service and then presented to his mother, Tracy Loveberry-Ross.
Additional money is needed to finish paying for the monument, organizers said. They are planning a golf outing next Sunday at Pleasant Hills in Mt. Pleasant. Reservations can be made by calling 433-2297 or 772-0487.
There will also be a charity car wash from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 17 at Dynamic Car Wash in Mt. Pleasant.
Anyone wanting to make a donation to the monument can do so at an account set up at Isabella Bank and Trust locations. Checks should be made payable to "Justin Ellsworth Memorial Fund.“
Last modified date and time: 09/04/2005 16:43