PORTAGE, Mich. (WOOD) — The Air Zoo near Kalamazoo marked Veterans Day by dedicating a new memorial to fallen soldiers.

The Air Zoo Aerospace & Science Experience in Portage already had military aircraft and collectibles on display. Now, a Gold Star marker, the eighth in the state, stands near its main entrance.

It was the product of two years of planning and several grants.

“The year before COVID, over 200,000 people passed through this front door from all over the world,” Landscapers Garden Club Kalamazoo President Mary Beth Montague said. “It just gives me great pleasure to know that they will be looking at this plaque every time they go through and thinking of the men and women that gave their lives for our freedom.”

“We must be aware of and honor them and continually show the families how much we love and support them,” state Sen. Sean McCann, D-Kalamazoo, said at the dedication ceremony.

He was talking about Gold Star families and parents like John Burri, whose son Army Spec. Eric Burri was killed in action in Iraq 16 years ago.

“This just reassures that they are always going to be remembered, and it’s greatly appreciated,” John Burri said.

“He always had a beautiful smile and I could see that he’s looking down upon us today, knowing that their sacrifice is not forgotten,” he added of his son. “I’m just so proud of our hero, our boy, and all who have served.” 

“As a mother of three sons, I just couldn’t imagine the sacrifices that your son has made or daughter and the families that are missing them, especially with the holidays coming up. You will be in my thoughts and prayers,” Portage Mayor Patricia Randall said.

Members of the public are welcome to donate flowers or your time to help maintain the memorial by reaching out to Michigan Garden Clubs or the Kalamazoo Garden Council.