Sixteen fallen Ohioans, including nine from southwest Ohio, were posthumously honored at the Ohio Statehouse Tuesday for their sacrifices on the battlefield.
The 16 were awarded the Ohio Military Medal of Distinction, presented by state legislative leaders to family members who attended. Afterward, the fallen were recognized again during a wreath-laying ceremony for which Ohio Gov. John Kasich gave the keynote address.
The ceremonies were scheduled in advance of Memorial Day.
In a noontime speech that resembled a Sunday sermon, an emotional Kasich said the men — who all died within the last two years — had not lost their lives in vain. Kasich later embraced two of the fallen soldiers’ family members who attended and wiped away tears.
“They live in glory,” he said.
Among those honored were:
- Michael B. Cook, Jr., of Middletown. Cook, 27, was a specialist in the Army. He was killed on June 6, 2011, in a rocket attack at a military base in Baghdad.
- Bobby L. Estle, 38, of Lebanon. Estle, an Army sergeant first class, was killed last July 28, 2012, by small arms fire after his unit was attacked in the Wardak Province of Afghanistan.
- James Edison Groves, III, 37, of Kettering. Groves was an Army chief warrant officer who died on March 16 when the helicopter he was piloting crashed near Kandahar, Afghanistan.
- John P. Huling, 25, of West Chester. Huling, a sergeant with the United States Marine Corps, was shot and killed on May 6, 2012, while on foot patrol after he was ambushed by a person wearing an Afghan National Army uniform.
- Robert A. Massarelli, 32, of Hamilton. Massarelli, an Army staff sergeant, was killed last June 24 in Kandahar, Afghanistan, after a truck he was traveling in hit an improvised explosive device, according to MLive.com.
Nicholas H. Olivas, 20, of Fairfield. Olivas, a corporal in the U.S. Army, was killed by an improvised explosive device on May 30, 2012, three months after he arrived in Afghanistan for his first deployment. His father, Adolfo Olivas, is a former Hamilton mayor.
Jeffrey L. Rice, 24, of Troy. Rice died July 19, 2012 in the Kandahar Province in Afghanistan. He was a private first class with the U.S. Army.
- Cody D. Suggs, 22, of West Alexandria. Suggs, a specialist in the Ohio Army National Guard, died last March 7 in a noncombat incident at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan.
- Wesley R. Williams, 25, of New Carlisle. Williams, a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army, died on Dec. 10, 2012* after an improvised explosive device was used against him in the Kandahar province.
The first ceremony was held in the House chamber as a joint session between the Ohio House of Representatives and Ohio Senate. A bell was rung once each time a group of family members walked to accept a framed and mounted medal. The women’s select choral group from Little Miami High School sang the National Anthem.
The second ceremony was in the Statehouse atrium. Five students from the Dayton Early College Academy presented the colors.
“The men we honor today were taken from this earth too soon, but the spirit of their character and the significance of their sacrifice will carry on for generations to come,” Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder, R-Medina, said.
*This date has been corrected subsequent to publication.