These are the words of former U.S. Marine Donald Rospert, of Bellevue, regarding the people he lost to the Vietnam War.
Rospert served in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968. The veteran said he lost two of his own men to the war, along with his cousin.
“I was very close to him,” he added.
Despite his losses, Rospert has made invaluable contributions to the community as a veteran.
His long list of post-military achievements are being honored in November by the 2017 Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame.
Started in 1992 by then-Gov. George V. Voinovich to demonstrate his concern for veterans returning home after the Cold War, the hall of fame was put in place by the state as a way to increase awareness of the lifetime contributions of outstanding veterans.
Robert Ward, a veteran service officer for the Huron County Veteran Services Office (HCVSO), said more than a hundred nominees are sent in each year.
“Only 20 are inducted,” he added.
This year, Rospert is one of them.
Ward, along with others at the veterans services office, nominated Rospert for the award. Ward said it was an easy decision.
“Because he’s touched so many; it was easily a community effort,” Ward said.
He added “Donald Rospert is one of a kind. He’s the most selfless individual I’ve ever met.”
Rospert has made countless contributions to communities in Huron, Sandusky and Erie counties over the years.
The veteran worked with Big Brothers Big Sisters for 18 years, serving as president of the organization for six years.
During his time with the club, Rospert said he mentored one local youth for ten years. The two remain in contact today.
“He’s doing well,” he said. “He’s got a great work ethic.”
Rospert said he tries to lead by example in all that he does. His list of contributions speaks to that claim.
In addition to the Boys and Girls club, Rospert and his brother, Kenn, have worked together on various projects, including founding the Fallen Soldiers Memorial in Bellevue.
Rospert was responsible for the design and construction of the memorial and has secured nearly 1,100 memorial pavers.
He is also a trustee for the Wounded Soldiers Fund, which offers assistance to families impacted by the global War on Terror.
One year, Rospert said the organization helped the family of a wounded soldier with travel expenses so they could be together for Christmas.
“It was the best Christmas present I could’ve gotten,” he said, his voice full of emotion. “I think the other trustees would feel the same way.”
Rospert was also instrumental in bringing the Wall That Heals, a traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, to Huron County.
“We had almost 12,000 people visit for that,” Ward said. “That’s the thing about Don. He doesn’t just get involved; he does it.”
“He expects nothing in return. That’s what makes a hall of fame vet.”
Even as Rospert sat talking at the vet services office, he was preparing to visit Immaculate Conception School in Bellevue to teach children about the flag etiquette.
Rospert lives in Bellevue, where he was recognized by the mayor in 2016 for his contributions to the community. He is 1960 St. Paul High School graduate.
Rospert was nominated for the hall of fame earlier this year and on Sept. 12, HCVSO received official notification of his selection. The ceremony will be held Nov. 9 at Radiant Life Church in Dublin.
Also, Rospert will be enshrined at the Riffe Center in downtown Columbus during a ceremony to take place in May.
When honoring this accomplishment on social media, the community is encouraged to reference the hashtag #OhioVetsHoF2017.
The war veteran said he just loves people.
“This is where I found myself,” he said. “With youth and vets.”