by Bradley Bedard
The memorial park dedicated to Jonathan Roberge, an Army PFC from Leominster, Massachusetts who died in Iraq in 2009, was completed on September 12th, marked by a ceremony celebrating his life. The park has been in design and under construction for over six years, and the leaders of the project were happy to have followed through on what they started in Jonathan’s name.
Jonathan Roberge was a 2005 graduate of Leominster High School. He enlisted leoin the Army and was deployed to Iraq in December 2008. For most of his time in Iraq, he served as the driver for the Colonel, an esteemed position to say the least, and one that kept him out of harms way. However, on February 9th, 2009, he was sent out on patrol in a Humvee with three other soldiers, Joshua Ward, Garnet Derby, and Albert Jex, as well as their translator Jevan Othman. They were passing through a busy intersection in Mosul, Iraq, when a suicide car bomber detonated itself next to their Humvee. None of the five men survived.
To honor Jonathan, his group, and all other fallen soldiers, Jonathan’s family decided to undertake the tremendous task of constructing a memorial park in Jonathan’s name. The cornerstone of the park is a tank that was delivered four years after Jonathan’s death and marked a major development towards really completing the park. An M60A3 Main Battle Tank represents Jonathan because it is the same type of tank that Jonathan drove. Featured on the tank’s barrel are the words “I’m kind of a big deal” which was Jonathan’s half-joking catch phrase because at first, he was just a Private First Class, and was also the Colonel’s driver. The park also features various other tributes to Jonathan and other fallen soldiers. Along the pathway to the tank stand four statues portraying the helmet, rifle, and boots of each soldier that was in the Humvee with Jonathan. Also in the park is a small section of blast wall displaying dozens of pictures of fallen Massachusetts soldiers. Facing the blast wall is another black concrete wall mimicking the same one that soldiers in Iraq paint the names of their fallen comrades on. The wall in the park was also hand painted with each and every name of the fallen soldiers. This wall is not only a tribute to the fallen soldiers, but also the soldiers that are still in Iraq. Finally, unveiled at the ceremony on September 12th, is the lifelike statue of “Johnny Ro” kneeling and holding his rifle and helmet, the perfect height for his mom to embrace him as they did every day.
When asked what the completion of the park represented to he and his family, Jonathan’s father, John, replied, “To me it is closure, almost like having a funeral, because it’s been going on for six years and it’s just never, never, never-ending. Having this park done today, it relieves a lot of anxiety… and I became [at] peace with myself now that the park is done, the people can come and see it and they can just enjoy it and remember about all the soldiers.” Throughout the ceremony, John could not express enough how he wanted the park to be perfect down to a tee, so that soldiers and family’s of fallen soldiers could come visit and really feel the spirit of the park, and remember their friends and loved ones in a place that feels worthy of honoring their ultimate sacrifice.
If you have the time, you should absolutely check out the “Johnny Ro Veterans Memorial Park.” It’s kind of a big deal.
(All Photo by Fitchburg Point Staff)