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Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Stretch of highway to honor area soldier

By Kathy Thompson
A portion of state Route 67 in Auglaize County may be dedicated in honor of Staff Sgt. Sonny Zimmerman.
Zimmerman, 25, of Waynesfield, was an infantry squad leader killed July 16, 2013, in Mushaka, Afghanistan, while serving his fourth tour of duty with Company A, 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division. He had been in the Army eight years.
Senate Bill 185 was heard by the House of Representatives Transportation, Public Safety and Homeland Security committee on Tuesday. The bill was introduced by Sen. Keith Faber, R-Celina, and passed by the Senate in January. The stretch of roadway begins at the intersection of state Route 67 and Santa Fe Road and goes east to state Route 196. A sign naming Zimmerman will be placed at the beginning and end of the route, Faber said.   
Faber told committee members Zimmerman represents "those great heroes and true patriots from Ohio who serve their country."
What impressed Faber most about Zimmerman, he said, was testimony by not only Zimmerman's widow, Morgan Zimmerman, who resides in Lima, but also of his fellow soldiers during the Senate Transportation hearing in January. First Sgt. Christopher Donaldson, Staff Sgt. Jared Allen and 1st Lt. Gabriel Weiss all served with Zimmerman and spoke at the proceeding.
Zimmerman, a 2005 graduate of Waynesfield-Goshen High School and lifelong resident of Waynesfield, wasn't a quitter or complainer, his family and friends all agreed. He received two Purple Hearts, three Army Commendation medals, two Army Achievement medals, two Army Good Conduct medals, the National Defense Service Medal, three Afghanistan Campaign medals, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Non-Commission Officer Professional Development Ribbon, the Army Service Ribbon, three Overseas Ribbons, the NATO Medal, the Combat Infantry Badge and the Air Assault Badge.
Even though he could have returned home to his wife and daughter, Riley McVicker, months before he was killed, he decided to stay with his men and finish his tour so he could "bring them home," Morgan Zimmerman told Faber during the hearing.
"That's the way Sonny was," his father, Chris Zimmerman, told The Daily Standard this week. "Sonny was a man of confidence and dedication. He told me time and time again, his men were the most important thing to him while he was over there. He told me he was there to make sure they all came home."
Zimmerman showed leadership while growing up, playing roller hockey in Lima and Celina, his father said.
"He helped coach the little kids and always had that way about him," Chris Zimmerman remembered. "He was the kind of person that only had encouragement for others. Always a good word."
Weiss told the committee Zimmerman "moved far beyond strict duty and assumed full responsibility for not only the performance of his men but also for their well being."
"Sonny gave every measure of devotion to serving his country, his peers and his family," Weiss stated. "He often sacrificed his few moments of rest, choosing instead to help me or his soldiers, or any of his peers or leaders to complete their tasks to perfection."
Morgan Zimmerman spoke fondly of her husband.
"He was a man of his word to his friends, his family, but most of all to his soldiers and our country," Morgan Zimmerman told Faber and the committee. "He lived for our country and he paid the ultimate sacrifice and died for our country. Not a day goes by this man is not missed terribly by me, friends, family and his soldiers and recognized as the hero he is."
Zimmerman's grandmother, Loretta Zimmerman, of Waynesfield, said when her grandson walked into a room, his "smile lit the room up."
"It was a life-long dream of his to join the Army," Loretta told The Daily Standard this week. "He loved his time there."
Allen told the committee in January that Zimmerman would always be remembered for his smile and for coming from "the great state of Ohio."
"To be forever remembered and recognized for the remarkable man that he was in his home state would simply, in his eyes, be the pinnacle of personal achievement," Allen stated. "He would be humbled and proud to receive this honor as we are for his fidelity and sacrifice to us," Allen said.
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