August 15, 2021
On Tuesday, August 17 at 10:30 am, the Fairfield County Commissioners will dedicate a new mural on the Amstutz Building at 227 E. Main Street in Lancaster.
“The concept for the Hometown Heroes mural grew from respect for our veterans and those who have fallen in combat, especially those from Fairfield County,” the commissioners stated in a press release.
At its core, the mural is depicted in a style reminiscent of antique advertisements found on the side of buildings throughout Fairfield County. Numerous patriotic elements and references to Fairfield County are carried throughout the mural.
It was not possible to hold a public dedication last year as the mural was completed, given the safeguarding procedures of the pandemic; however, as the mural was unveiled, community conversations arose, grounded in gratitude for the service of veterans and inspiring private moments of thankfulness, the commissioners stated.
These conversations were especially appreciated during the pandemic when there were feelings of loneliness and despair. The project helped to inspire intergovernmental cooperation and coordination. As such, the mural received a National Association of Counties Achievement Award in 2021.
“We embraced this opportunity for how a memorial can inspire countless silent words of thanks for our patriots,” said Carri Brown, Fairfield County administrator. “We need more gratitude in our world, especially gratitude for our patriots and our sons and daughters who have fallen. We cannot show our gratitude in enough ways.”
The purpose of the project was to promote local talent and engage the community to convert an empty wall into a public canvas with a lasting, positive effect on the community conversations to support gratitude for the military.
The commissioners are holding the dedication on August 17 to honor Lancaster native Sgt. Joseph Collette on what would have been his 32nd birthday. Collette was 29 when on March 21, 2019, he died of wounds sustained in combat operations in Kunduz province, Afghanistan.
“He was so loved by his family, friends, and community,” said Brown. “He encouraged others to make a difference and live life to its fullest. He was a great source of joy for his extended family. His mother, Teri Mecionis (an employee of Fairfield County), often spoke of her pride for his military service and for the incredible young man he had become.
“He was a long way from his home and family. But now, as we see the mural, we can see his name and think of him and many others who have given their lives for our country.”
Collette grew up in Lancaster, the son of Joey Collette and Theresa Mecionis, and graduated from Lancaster High School in 2007.
In 2010 he joined the army where he eventually became assigned to a special forces unit in the 71st Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group (EOD), 242nd Ordnance Battalion out of Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
“Joseph joined the Army and decided that he wanted to become an EOD technician, bomb tech,” Mecionis said. “He was very intrigued by that aspect of warfare and looked forward to learning all that he could about it and earning the EOD badge. He trained for many years and told us he was eager to join a mission and do his part.”
According to the Army’s website, “the 71st Ordnance Group (EOD) ‘Raptors’ is one of two explosive ordnance disposal groups in the United States Army and has an additional responsibility to support U.S. Northern Command as a homeland defense asset. On order, the group deploys and conducts operations in support of the combative commanders or other government agencies to counter chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives (CBRNE) and weapon of mass destruction threats.”
“He deployed to Afghanistan to assist a special forces unit,” Mecionis said. “Unfortunately, he was killed while trying to protect his unit after coming under fire while attempting to secure an area during a sudden attack. While running to a better spot to have a clear shot of the enemy, he was shot several times himself.”
Upon his death, he received the Purple Heart, the Combat Action Badge and the Senior Explosive Ordinance Disposal Badge and the army promoted him to the rank of Sergeant.
In an issued statement, Col. David Green, commander of the 71st Ordnance Group said, “The 71st Ordnance Group is deeply saddened by the loss of Spc. Joseph P. Collete. We extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to his family and friends.”
“There are no words to capture the positive spirit of Sgt. Collette and how he has impacted the lives of the Fairfield County community,” Brown said. “At his funeral, it was shared that he used a phrase: ‘Get out in the world today.’ That phrase can inspire many others, young and old, to make a difference.”
Platoon Sgt. 1st Class Michael Reinhardt remembers Collete fondly.
“Joey was fantastic as a colleague – always dependable and willing,” Reinhardt said. “Joey brought positive energy to a room and always put a smile on people’s faces. He was outgoing and impossible to get down. He could accomplish any task with a smile on his face. He never got weighed down by life and always had a positive attitude that was contagious.”
Mecionis said that all of “his family, friends, Army family and loved ones miss him more than we can find words for. Joey brought so much joy to so many people. His life was full of fun and adventure. He is remembered by all as being a loving, loyal, interesting and fun person to be around as well as an amazing cook. We are all grateful to have had him in our lives.
Brown described the mural as an exceptional example of patriotic art.
“It has inspired multiple conversations of hope and encouragement for our hometown heroes,” Brown said. “Teri Mecionis has shared it has been a source of healing for her to know that the community remembers her son and his sacrifice, as well as the sacrifice of others.”
Mecionis explained that having Collette’s name on the dog tags in the patriotic mural in Lancaster means much to his family and friends.
“It ensures that he will be remembered and honored along with all who are serving and have served in the military,” she said.
Additionally, the Amstutz mural represents an opportunity to connect with placemaking as we come out of the pandemic, Brown explained. Upon completion, the project was met with such positive feedback from the public that there are now additional murals in the works. Some of these murals are county projects, and some are private enterprise projects.
The mural was a collaborative project between several different local artists, but the primary designers were Jason Annecy and Remo Remoquillo. Other contributors include Spencer Remoquillo, Marilyn Steiner, Pam Patula, David Annecy and Lynn Roush.
Remoquillo is currently finishing another mural a few blocks away from the Amstutz Building at the Fairfield County Records Center.
Numerous patriotic elements and references to Fairfield County were carried throughout the Hometown Heroes mural.
Pickerington Online thanks Theresa Mecionis for the photos of Joseph.