First responders — police, firefighters and emergency medical personnel —often face abuse and even attacks and they never know whether responding to a call for help could be their last. They often see the worst in people, but are expected to give their best in return.
It is the self-sacrifice of the men and women who are the first to respond to emergencies that Highland Police Cmdr. John Banasiak wanted to honor when he approached North Township Trustee Frank Mrvan about a year ago. Banasiak broached the idea of a permanent memorial in Highland's Wicker Memorial Park dedicated to first responders who have died in the line of duty.
“Highland has, sadly, lost two police officers in the line of duty,” Banasiak said. “Our town has named parks in memory of Donald R. Sheppard and Robert J. Markley and dedicated monuments in the parks to those officers, but I wanted to do more to ensure those in the township who have made the ultimate sacrifice are never forgotten.”
Mrvan supported the plan and began working with Banasiak to put together a coalition of first responders from the township communities: Hammond, Whiting, East Chicago, Munster and Highland. Fundraising for the project is underway through the sale of bricks and benches with the goal of starting construction in the spring. A Fallen First Responders Memorial Committee was formed.
Groundbreaking for the memorial was held Oct. 23 at Ridge Road and Indianapolis Boulevard.
Dean Savarino, president of Dean’s Lawn & Landscaping in Schererville, and Kevin Nordyke and Shelley Marshall, of Hillside Funeral Home & Cremation Center in Highland, created a video with a rendering of the memorial, developed with input from the coalition, to give the community an idea of what it will look like.
Mrvan said: “Since it was dedicated nearly a century ago, Wicker Memorial Park has been a serene setting for people to honor and remember those who have given their lives in service to our country. It seems fitting for the park to also be a place of reflection and memorializing our first responders who have made the ultimate sacrifice as they protected us here at home.”
To see the video of the memorial, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=YarnfUY8Wzw&feature=youtu.be.