Hill AFB dedicates memorial park, renames streets
By Mary Lou Gorny, Hilltop Times Editor
/ Published May 26, 2008
HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- On a rainy day in May, family members gather with Airmen, media and distinguished guests to dedicate four streets, a memorial park and unveil a replica of a monument to Airmen killed in action.
The indoor replica reflects the official monument's words to those assembled in the base theater, as the rain falls outside. The monument is a trio of black granite slabs. In the center there is an inscription remembering the Airmen's sacrifices, and on the right side are the four names of Hill Air Force Base Airmen lost in Iraq in 2007.
The names of Tech. Sgt. Timothy R. Weiner, Special Agent (Tech. Sgt.) Ryan Balmer, Senior Airman Elizabeth A. Loncki and Senior Airman Daniel B. Miller Jr. are inscribed on the monument because of the efforts by Team Hill to dedicate a park and memorial in their honor.
Among those assembled at the gathering were Maj. Gen. Kathleen Close, Commander of the Ogden Air Logistics Center and host for the Memorial Day events, Col. Linda Medler, 75th Air Base Wing commander, and Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), who spoke at the ceremony on behalf of Hill AFB and the Utah residents who work there. The base built the memorial with money awarded for a second-place finish in the Installation Excellence Award Program.
The three-part ceremony, memorial dedication, wreath laying and road renaming, included street signs given to the families. Seventh Street is now called Loncki Street, Eighth Street is Weiner Street, Ninth Street is called Miller Street and 11th Street will now be known as Balmer Street.
Colonel Medler noted in the ceremony that it was a fitting recognition to the efforts of the Airmen and the efforts of Team Hill. She told the family members of the four fallen Airmen that "24,000 people came together with a single purpose; to be able to stand here today and provide a place of reverence, solitude and recognition for you, and to create a place of tranquility for our people to come, day or night, to reflect on the cost of freedom.
"We will make history today," said Colonel Medler. "Four of our streets will be renamed in honor of our four heros, and their names are etched here on this granite--giving them a permanent place on Hill AFB, and in our hearts.
"It's all about showing the families that we remember," she said.
General Kathleen Close spoke of the four Airmen's exceptional valor, along with the more than 4,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen who have given their lives during the Global War on Terrorism.
"This holiday is a fitting day for this service; an American tradition of honor and faithful service," said General Close.
Representative Bishop talked to the crowd regarding his thoughts of the meaning of Memorial Day.
"Memorial Day is a day we connect the past to the present," Representative Bishop said.
He remembered his own father and concluded that he believes firmly the lives of everyone here impact others.
"These (Airmen) gave the full measure of their devotion," Representative Bishop said.
Joey Roberts, stepfather to Airman Loncki, quietly praised Hill AFB's efforts afterward.
"We appreciate everything they have done," said Mr. Roberts. "It came out gorgeous. The memorial is more than I expected."
Lambert Fox, whose two sons served and came home with honorable discharges from the current efforts, said he attended to honor his fiancée's son-in-law, Ryan Balmer, who he had spent time with in their common enjoyment of golf.
"We came down to take part in the dedication. I am proud to know and serve with such officers," he said of the trip to attend the services.
Mr. Fox, a Canadian with dual citizenship, said his family has encouraged family members to serve.
As a veteran police officer of 33 years, Mr. Fox said he understands some of the significance of the efforts involved having been in a few difficult spots himself in the line of duty.
Mr. Fox, a Blackfeet Indian who has served a term as a First Nation's chief of police, said he feels it is important serving "as one big nation."
Outside, the rains lift as a few wander over to the park; the sun clears out of the mist and shows the white etched names in the dark granite slabs. A circular area of red brick surrounds the stones as two honor guard members reassemble the dedication wreath at the park under the protective blue canopy tents. A few family members reassemble around the memorial and feel the hallowed ground that this once barren patch of grass has turned into.