A local stretch of Interstate 270 has been renamed to honor one of the area's fallen soldiers.
I-270 between the Broadway exit in Grove city and the West Broad Street exit in the West Side has been designated as the "Army Specialist Nicholaus E. Zimmer Memorial Highway." It was officially dedicated with a ceremony held July 1, at the Hatfield Auto Mall, off Georgesville Road.
Zimmer, a 2002 graduate of Westland High School, was killed in action May 30, 2004 in Kufa, Iraq, when his unit was attacked with rocket-propelled grenades. He was 20 years old, the only child of Gino and Lisa Zimmer. The Zimmers attended the July 1 ceremony.
The naming of the highway came with the passage of Ohio Senate Bill 209, which was passed earlier this year and became effective June 10.
Ohio Rep. Cheryl Grossman (R-Grove City) said the memorial pays tribute to one who paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of freedom.
"This is very important," she said. "Let us never forget."
During the ceremony, Grossman, former mayor of Grove City, read aloud a letter to the Zimmers written by their son's commanding officer in Iraq.
"Nick distinguished himself as the soldier he was," Grossman said as she read from the letter. "As a leader, people like Nick are indispensible. ... This war will end someday. Our memories will never end."
The route of the "Army Specialist Nicholaus E. Zimmer Memorial Highway" is marked by signs. Ferzan Ahmed, ODOT Deputy Director District 6, said the agency puts up a lot of signs along the highway.
"This is a highway sign of a different kind," Ahmed said. "It tells us about the people we should never forget."
Lisa Zimmer said the memorial was "very special."
"I really don't have words," Lisa Zimmer said.
Gino Zimmer said his son wasn't the type of person who would want a statue of himself. Voted "Most Unique" in high school, he was the kind of guy who could be friends with anyone, Gino Zimmer said. Nicholaus Zimmer joined the military while still in high school through early entry, thinking it was best for himself and his country.
"He was so grown up," Gino Zimmer said. "He just had a knack for understanding people."
After their son's death, the Zimmers founded the Operation Iraqi Freedom Chopper Fund, which became the Ohio Flags of Honor Foundation. Ohio Flags of Honor is a traveling memorial that honors the servicemen and servicewomen who have died in the War on Terror. The memorial, featuring more than 400 American flags, was on display in Grove City June 20-22.