BAY ST LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - Bay High School kicked off the Memorial holiday weekend with the dedication of a new Veterans Memorial Garden. The garden is designed to honor the memory of local fallen soldiers.
"While it is important to remember the service and sacrifice of all American veterans, today we want to specifically honor U.S Army Lt. Robert C. Ontenus-Sekorski," said JROTC Instructor Paul Snemyr.
Bay St. Louis native Lt. Robert Oneto-Sikorski was a Company Officer in charge of leading the soldiers of the 155th Infantry Battalion. He lost his life during a combat mission in Iraq.
"In 2005, Lt. Oneto-Sikorski and his unit deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom," Snemyr said. "On October 31, 2005, he was killed when an improvised explosive device detonated near his dismounted patrol. He was only 33-years-old."
The soldiers who served with Sikorski say being the first fallen soldier to be honored in this memorial garden is a fitting tribute to a man who died fighting for his country.
Judah Smith is a member of the Mississippi Army National Guard.
"A good example of his dedication was when Katrina hit South Mississippi. He had the option of going home because he lost his house and belongings. But instead of coming home, he gave his soldiers the opportunity to go home. He stayed in their steed," Smith said.
The ROTC students who built the memorial garden agree.
JROTC Student Cody Royal said, "They served our country, and the least we can do is remember them."
A brick bearing Sikorski's name will be cemented in concrete as a lasting memorial to a local war hero.
"We invite you all to visit this garden often. And when you do, please take a moment and remember that the freedom we enjoy today is not free. It is a gift, a priceless gift, purchased by the blood and sacrifice of our veterans," Snemyr said.
The new Hancock County National Guard Armory located in the Kiln community also bears Lt. Sikorski's name. Sikorski was laid to rest at the Biloxi National Cemetery.