Austin Ricker is shown working on one of the many crosses he has made for a traveling display to honor Putnam County soldiers who were killed in action - Putnam Sentinel
Austin Ricker is shown working on one of the many crosses he has made for a traveling display to honor Putnam County soldiers who were killed in action. (Putnam Sentinel/Nancy Kiine)

FORT JENNINGS – When Austin Ricker was choosing an Eagle Scout project, he wanted to choose something of lasting importance.

“I wanted to do more than a landscaping project or plant a tree,” the rural Fort Jennings resident said. Mr. Ricker decided to do a traveling memorial field of crosses. The crosses will represent Putnam County veterans who were killed in action, died of wounds, were missing in action or had a finding of death that said they were presumed dead.

Mr. Ricker’s traveling display will be set up for viewing for the first time during the Fort Jennings Fort Fest, August 16 through 18. Mr. Ricker has styled his traveling display after a picture of Normandy that inspired him to make the crosses. Mr. Ricker has constructed each cross from six hand-cut pieces of wood that are assembled, sanded and painted white. Although each cross does not have a name, visitors can view an accompanying file box that includes the information Mr. Ricker has collected on all the casualties. This included days and weeks of research done as Mr. Ricker compiles the list. This list of each casualty may include military rank, branch of service, discharge information, enlistment records and other service information. It also includes military records, obituaries and newspaper articles of the family being notified of the veteran’s death.

“This is an on-going compilation of information and we are still seeking more,” said Mr. Ricker.

Assisting Mr. Ricker in his research have been Ruth Wilhelm, head of local history and genealogy with the Putnam County District Library, Justin Crawfis, with the Findlay-Hancock Library, and Austin’s mother, Amy Mr. Ricker. Local businessmen donated to cover the costs for Austin’s

Eagle Scout project. “When you read the obituary and how the family was notified you get an emotional connection to each soldier,” said Mr. Ricker. He said this will be an ongoing project with crosses added as more names are found. Currently Mr. Ricker has 107 names of those who come under the guidelines for those considered killed in action. This includes soldiers from World War 2, the Korean, War, Vietnam War, and operation Iraqi Freedom. All will be display at Fort Jest 2019.

Mr. Ricker has also built custom boxes to store the crosses. He is hoping other communities will use the traveling memorial to honor those Putnam County soldiers who were killed in action and gave their life in defense of our country. Mr. Ricker, who is home-schooled, will be a sophomore.

“Each cross represents an American soldier from our country who died in service to our country,” Mr. Ricker said. He said anyone who has information on these soldiers including Blue Star Families to share their information and photographs by emailing him at austin.j.Mr.

They may also contact him this way or call the Putnam County Veterans Association if they desire to exhibit his traveling exhibit.