WESTFIELD, Ind. – A Vietnam veteran is honoring soldiers from Indiana who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. He's maintained a memorial in Westfield along Union Street for nearly a decade.
There are more than 200 plaques honoring soldiers killed during the war on terror. Flags were flying above the name of each fallen Hoosier hero.
"It represents a lot of good young people that cared enough about this country," said Dennis Zavada, a Vietnam veteran.
It was a sobering moment for Zavada as he walked beside them and made sure the area was well kept. He fought in the Vietnam War and because of that, he decided to take on the project. He stops by the plot of land every week.
"Military people kind of connect with each other over the years through the generations and everything," he said.
Since 9/11, he's helped honor the sacrifice of 208 soldiers. The plaques have the name of the soldier, where they were from and when they died.
"I know some of the back stories of the people lost here and everything it is very humbling," Zavada said.
The idea for the memorial actually began at a kitchen table in a home next to the property. Another Vietnam veteran who lived there, Don Peed, wanted to make sure these heroes were remembered and not treated like those returning from the war in Vietnam. Peed died from the effects of Agent Orange in 2005.
He started the project with simple white crosses. There's still one up for him today.
"He was army through and through," said his wife, Carol Peed. "I think he recruited until the day he died."
Carol still lives in that home. She believed her husband would be proud of Zavada and the community's continued work.
"I know he is very pleased up there looking down on it," she said.
The soldiers' families appreciate it too because it is a reminder that they will never be forgotten. Zavada said the response they get from those families keeps him going.
Zavada gets help from neighbors and local businesses to keep the project going. Along the walkway, there are more than 60 names engraved on bricks. They have donated money to help with maintenance.
Zavada appreciates any help he can get. Donations to support the memorial are tax deductible and can be made by check to the Carmel VFW Post 10003, 12863 Old Meridian St., Carmel, IN 46032. They ask for checks to be written out to Fallen Hoosier Memorial.