WHEELING - Two local families, joined in mutual sorrow, came together Saturday to celebrate and pay tribute to the lives of their sons who died in battle in Iraq.
Army Sgt. Matthew Hunter and Army Capt. David Van Camp, both graduates of Wheeling Park High School, were remembered in a special way, as two Elm Grove bridges were renamed in their honor on Saturday. The S. Bridge was designated as the U.S. Army Sgt. Matthew D. Hunter Memorial Bridge. The bridge in front of Bridge Street Middle School is now the U.S. Army Capt. David Van Camp Memorial Bridge.
Families and friends of the men gathered with military members, veterans, members of police and fire departments and local and state officials for a parade from the S. Bridge to the middle school prior to the bridge dedications. Wheeling Park High School band members marched and played patriotic music.
Photo by Heather Ziegler
The families of Sgt. Matthew Hunter and Capt. David Van Camp are shown with replica signs of two bridges in Elm Grove that were named for the fallen troops on Saturday. Shown from left are Hunter’s father Fred Hunter and his wife Deb; Donald and Linda Van Camp; and Kathy Kinney, Hunter’s mother, and her husband Joe. View additional photos at cu.theintelligencer.net.
Local color guards presented the colors and offered a 21-gun salute at the site of each bridge. Members of the Patriot Guard Riders took part, as did young baseball players. Spectators lined U.S. 40 in tribute as the parade made its way to the middle school.
"It never goes away, the hurt is always there," said Linda Van Camp, David's mother. "This is nice what they're doing today. It helps."
Hunter's mother, Kathy Kinney, agreed that having her son remembered in such a visible way helps her family deal with the grief.
"You always think about it ... and I think about the guys now serving, too. They're scared but they do what they have to do bravely," Kathy Kinney.
Hunter, 31, was a resident of Valley Grove. He was killed on Jan. 23, 2006 in Iraq. Van Camp, 29, died June 29, 2011, also in Iraq.
The bridge dedications were made possible through the urging of local state legislators, with Delegate Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, leading the cause.
He was joined at Saturday's ceremony by Delegates Erikka Storch, R-Ohio; Mike Ferro, D-Marshall; Robert "Rocky" Fitzsimmons, D-Ohio, and Dave Evans, R-Marshall. Delegate Phillip Diserio, D-Brooke, also worked on the project. Wheeling Mayor Andy McKenzie was in attendance representing the City of Wheeling.
"I am humbled and honored to do this. It is the greatest honor we (the West Virginia Legislature) can take part in. It's a team effort," Ferns said.
John Nanny, commandant of the Marine Corps League's Jones, Wolin O'Brien Detachment No. 771 in Wheeling, offered comments during the ceremony.
"This is the tale of two soldiers who gave the supreme sacrifice," Nanny said. "With this turnout today, these soldiers will not have died in vain. It's up to us to keep their memory alive. I also ask you to keep those serving in our prayers."
Nanny reported that the fourth annual Veterans Day Race to be held in November will be dedicated in memory and honor of Hunter and Van Camp.