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Local groundskeeper, veteran makes sure 210 fallen Hoosiers are never forgotten

Dennis Zavada maintains the Fallen Hoosier Heroes Memorial in Westfield
Posted at 11:13 PM, Nov 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-12 16:53:05-05

WESTFIELD — More than 200 Hoosiers are being remembered at the Fallen Hoosier Heroes Memorial in Westfield, as a way to honor and reflect on those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in their fight for freedom.

One local veteran is dedicating his time to making sure they're never forgotten.

"There's a lot of good people still that care about them," Dennis Zavada said.

Sunshine, rain, or snow, you can count on Zavada to maintain the memorial. He has spent hundreds of hours making sure the fallen Hoosiers are taken care of and remembered.

"I mow the property. When we lose someone, I get the plaque made. I take care of getting the flags ordered, the American flag, and the service they were in. When the weather takes its toll on them and we replace them every May, I shovel the snow in the wintertime, put down the salt, make sure the fliers are there," he said.

For him, it's not work, it's a tribute. And it's one he takes pride in.

"It's something that needs to be done. It's very worthwhile," Zavada said.

In 2009, the site was dedicated to the men and women of Indiana who died fighting in Operation Enduring Freedom after 9/11.

"We started originally putting the crosses up not thinking we were going to lose as many people as we did, that the war was going to go on as long as it did," he said.

The first to be honored was Marine Sgt. Jeanette Winters. The last was Marine Cpl. Humberto Sanchez, who was killed outside the Kabul airport in Afghanistan this past August.

"We do share feelings for them," said Zevada.

Zavada is also a Marine and a proud parent of a veteran. He says he can't feel the pain the Gold Star families feel, but promises them he and other volunteers treat the fallen heroes as one of their own.

"I respect and I know it's a terrible, terrible loss and they've made the world a better place," he said.

His dedication doesn't go unnoticed. The Ballard family stopped by to thank him for his service Thursday and for the upkeep on the property.

"Taking care of them and taking care of their families so they know they have a place to visit, it just means the world to us and for the younger generations to see that people do care," Kristen Ballard said.

"I think it's really important for the community to see just how much people sacrifice for our country every day," Cash Ballard added.

The Fallen Hoosier Heroes Memorial is open to the public seven days a week.