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Fallen hero honored with memorial bench

A simple bench now sits along the edge of New Richmond's Veterans Park, serving as a resting place for visitors of the Armed Services Memorial nearby.

Etched in the black stone is a message of remembrance to a fallen hero who once called this city home.

"In loving memory of AW1 Cory James Helman, Aug. 14, 1979-Jan. 26, 2007," is written in bright white lettering. "I served my country, my job is done. Now I'll serve my Lord, the Almighty One."

Family and friends gathered Saturday to unveil and dedicate the newly placed bench. An emotional ceremony was also conducted to remember the Navy serviceman who died in a helicopter crash while training for an anticipated deployment overseas.

Mayor David Schnitzler said it was an honor for him to be asked to participate in the special ceremony.

Just days following the seventh anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the East Coast, Schnitzler said it was the perfect time to remember a serviceman who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation's ideals.

"Without Cory and others like him, we would be in a lot of big trouble," Schnitzler said.

Schnitzler recalled a recent funeral for a fallen soldier he attended where the pastor compared each person's life to that of a book.

"Some are thick and some are a little bit smaller," he said. "Apparently Cory's book was a little smaller, but the quantity and the words in that book are huge."

Lisa Green and Amy Munson, classmates of Cory, talked about their memories of their friend.

Green recalled many funny stories of Cory's antics and expected visits, and of the life changes that they each experienced over the past few years.

"We still have tears of sadness," she told the crowd. "But we are thankful every day for the time we were given with Cory. Our stories are a small piece of who Cory was, but he was our best friend. Cory will not be forgotten because he is our hero, and the hero of many."

Family friend Kathy Bengtson also recalled stories of Cory and his love of family, friends and country.

"Cory would be so proud today to know he was bestowed with this great honor in New Richmond," she said. "Cory wore the orange and black color of the New Richmond Tigers proudly."

Bengtson said he took his local roots seriously and kept in touch with many classmates and friends even during his military service.

"He had a heart of gold," she said. "He was a man who we could all be proud of. Cory never thought he was a hero. He was modest and always put others before himself."

Cory's second cousin, Connie Peters, said she had a special place in her heart for her fallen relative.

"He lived every moment of his life fully," she said. "He died at 27 years old, but I believe he lived his life to the fullest."

She read several Internet posts from friends who continue to feel the loss of Cory from their lives.

Cory's father, Jim, thanked the crowd that gathered under cloudy skies for the unveiling. He thanked the close-knit military family that has provided the Helman's support in the months and years following Cory's death.

"We feel proud to be involved in this ceremony today," he said.

Jim and his wife, Sandy, along with daughter Charity looked on as a blue tarp was peeled back to reveal the new bench, which was made possible by individual and business donations and the efforts of the local American Patriot Riders organization.

Rocci Stucci, president of the American Patriot Riders, thanked the City and local veterans who helped make the bench a reality.

"We did a lot of brat stands," Stucci said. "But we were doing it for such an honorable person and such an honorable family. I woke up in the morning and couldn't wait to get to the brat stand."

He said the citizens of the community went beyond the call of duty to donate toward the bench project.

"We thank Mr. and Mrs. Helman for giving us a true American hero," he said. "It is not how a soldier dies that makes him a hero, but it's what he did when he was alive."