Adam Eguia (left), chief organizer of the Fourth of July celebration in Decatur, addresses the crowd at Monday's event while talking about two groups of people in the background. At left are the survivors of U.S. Army Sgt. Phillip Jenkins, including his mother, Rose Jenkins and his wife and two daughters. On the right, are the survivors of Bob Bombka, who was in charge of the July 4 fireworks show here for 18 years, but died in February. (Photo by Eric Mann)
Monday's Independence Day service in Decatur was dedicated to all who are serving in the United States military, but especially to two local men who died half-a-world apart.
The July 4 extravaganza, which started with rock music at 6 p.m. and ended at 10:30 p.m. after a fireworks show, was dedicated to the memory of U.S. Army staff sergeant Phillip Jenkins, 27, who was killed in Iraq by enemy fire on September 7, 2010, and Bob Bombka, 71, who was in charge of the Fourth of July fireworks show for its first 18 years as owner of TND Fireworks in Decatur. Bombka, a former Indiana National Guard member, died in a Fort Wayne hospital on February 4 this year.
The family of Sgt. Jenkins, including his mother, Rose, who lives in Decatur, and his widow, Melissa, and their daughters Piper and Lindly, was present for the service. Melissa and her daughters live in Westerville, Ohio. Jenkins was born in Decatur and was a 2002 graduate of Bellmont High School.
Adam Eguia, who, along with the late Ed Miller, created the Fourth of July event 19 years ago, gave identical memorial plaques to Rose and Melissa Jenkins.
The large Bombka family, led by his widow, Judy, attended and they, the Jenkins family, and a number of others were given the privilege of signing a 12-inch-diameter fireworks shell (the largest ever detonated over Decatur) that was the final sendoff in tribute to Bob Bombka at the end of the aerial pyrotechnics.
"To Bob, with love," wrote Eguia on the shell. He also thanked not only the Bombka family and the Jenkinses, but others who have had a hand in the success of the Independence Day celebration.
Mayor John Schultz, a Vietnam War veteran, welcomed the large crowd of several thousand in Riverside Park and spoke of "honoring two special people today" before he thanked everyone who is serving in the nation's military.
The guest speaker was Chuck Simons of New Albany, commander of the state branch of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).
Simons said the state VFW and its auxiliaries at 175 locations recently completed 1.7 million hours of volunteer services and also donated $1.6 million. He said he waspleased to see how well the VFW and the American Legion work together in Decatur and added that the two groups should always work together well since all the members served together, in effect, on active duty.
Prayers were given by Carl Thieme and Jan Smith of American Legion Post 43 in Decatur, three volleys of blanks were fired by the color guard from Legion Post 43, and its trumpeter, Dave Rice, played "Taps."
Smith also read aloud biographies of Sgt. Jenkins and Bob Bombka, noting that Bombka's family will continue performing the annual fireworks shows.
Smith then read the entry about Jenkins that was placed in the Congressional Record by Indiana's Sixth District U.S. Representative, Mike Pence, who delivered condolences at that time to Jenkins' family.
Near the close of the event, the veterans held a service to commit Jenkins and Bombka to "The Legion Post Everlasting," a reference to Heaven.