The Midwest displays patriotism through its many small towns. One such example lies in Piqua Ohio where they honor several local heroes through its sculptures and plaques.
After 24 years in the US Air Force, I can’t think of an air force base that did not have a building named after William Hart Pitsenbarger. His valor in saving and defending 60 men on Vietnam’s jungle floor earned him the Air Force Cross which was later upgraded to Medal of Honor. The name William Pitsenbarger is synonymous with the ideals of putting others first which the Air Force immortalizes on the façade of buildings throughout the country. What I didn’t know was he was also from the Miami Valley and called Piqua Ohio home.
I learned this fact while passing through Piqua’s Veterans’ Memorial Park on a gorgeous spring day. In 1991, Piqua’s Veterans Memorial Committee secured funding and prominent land at the intersection of Washington Avenue and State Route 66 and then placed an eight-foot-high black granite monument honoring its citizens who served our nation. Amongst its dedication bricks lies a separate granite memorial and an Ohio Historical Marker both honoring William H. Pitsenbarger. Both the memorial and marker share the story of his heroic actions while recognizing his Miami County roots. On a subsequent trip to the memorial, I met a lady from the local garden club who was attending the flowerbeds surrounding this large memorial. In our conversation, she shared that she knew William Pitsenbarger. In fact, she grew up across the street from Billy. After recalling her experiences, the lady inquired if I had seen the statue of Billy at Pitsenbarger Park and Sports Complex.
Although a sports park honoring Pitsenbarger was created years before, in 2015 and after several years of fundraising, the Friends of the Piqua Parks installed a life-size, bronze sculpture of William Pitsenbarger at the park’s entrance. Set atop a grey granite base, the statue captures the essence of his amicable and caring personality. As Piqua’s vice mayor shared, many of our children pass through Pitsenbarger Park and Sports Complex but now, with the large statue, they can begin to better grasp the man he was.
Dominic Salvatore "Don" Gentile was born in Piqua, Ohio in 1920. As a child, Gentile was fascinated with flight and even learned to fly while still in high school. As war emerged over Europe and lacking the required college education for the US Army Air Corps, Gentile joined the British Royal Air Force in 1941, serving in the famous 133 Eagle Squadron. As the US ramped up its war effort, he was assigned to the 4th Fighter Group which eventually was equipped with P-51 Mustangs. His talents and tenacity made him Army Air Force’s leading ace with 27 kills to his credit. Given his reputation, General Eisenhower labeled Domenic Gentile a “One Man Air Force”. In 1986, the City of Piqua dedicated this sculpture which resides on Veterans Way near North Main Street and East High Street.
William McCulloch was born in Ohio in 1901 and early in his law and political career, settled in Piqua Ohio. In addition to practicing law, he served as a state representative and eventually speaker of the house in Columbus. As WWII broke out, he resigned as Ohio’s Speaker of the House and enlisted in the US Army at 40 years old. After the war, he was elected to the US Congress where he was instrumental in shaping enduring legislation such as the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the 1968 Fair Housing Act. William McCulloch passed on 22 February 1980 and was interred at Arlington National Cemetery. In July 1990, the City of Piqua renamed this square in his honor and in 2018 installed this sculpture in his honor.
Piqua, Ohio is a fascinating small town. If you like to see more art prints of Piqua, check out this master gallery or just double click on the images. In addition to Piqua Ohio Memorials, I offer portfolios capturing impressive Piqua Architecture, pretty Piqua Parks, and the colorful Piqua High School stadium.