Daniel J. Firestone

Spc. Daniel J. Firestone was born in 1978 and was a lifelong resident of the Wattsburg community he loved.  As a Child, he enjoyed playing little league baseball. He joined the Wattsburg Hose Company when he was 14 as a junior firefighter, dedicating 10 years to this volunteer service. 

After obtaining his GED, he entered the Army as a reservist, something he wanted to do from a young age. He completed basic training at Fort Jackson. After basic training, he completed his AIT training in water purification at Fort Lee. While in AIT, Daniel also helped many of his classmates pass theirs water purification too as top in his class. He went on to qualify for and obtain several additional MOS' s. 

Spc Firestone was always available to assist his brothers in arms and to provide professional advice. He was always for the hard jobs and was often called upon as a soldier to provide for "The Final Salute". His section leaders always knew he would humbly serve. It is said that Daniel did not even accept the awards and medals given to him during his service in Iraq and Afghanistan. He always felt he was only "doing his job".

"Danner" protected all around him in military life and in civilian life. He was a friend to all he knew and touched every life that he came in contact with. Spc Firestone was a quiet and private person who loved his family and friends and was loved by so many. He enjoyed hunting, pool, darts, hiking, walking, bonfires, helping others, and teasing family and friends. He was a member of the Eagles Club and the VFW. He was an avid Buffalo Bills fan.

Spc. Firestone completed a 13-month tour in Iraq and 10-month tour in Afghanistan. 

He dealt with his demons after returning from his deployment in Afghanistan. He lost his battle to PTSD on January 16, 2014, leaving behind his parents, sisters, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends whom all loved him dearly. 

Jeremy Horton

Staff Sgt. Jeremy Horton was born in Erie, PA in 1979 to Tim Horton and Gretchen Wittenburg Horton. He grew up loving the outdoors, hunting, fishing, camping and rapelling. He was a 1997 graduate of Strong Vincent High School where he met the love of his life, Christie Schock. Jeremy loved music and played the bass drum for the Strong Vincent Marching Band. 

​In November 1997, he enlisted in the United States Army as an infantryman. Jeremy and Christie were wed in July of 1998 and he was posted at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. While stationed at Ft. Bragg, Jeremy and some of his fellow soldiers had a punk rock band called Welfare Babies. They enjoyed playing at various venues in the Fayetteville area. Jeremy played the drums in that band and also loved singing.

In November 1997, he enlisted in the United States Army as an infantryman. Jeremy and Christie were wed in July of 1998 and he was posted at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. While stationed at Ft. Bragg, Jeremy and some of his fellow soldiers had a punk rock band called Welfare Babies. They enjoyed playing at various venues in the Fayetteville area. Jeremy played the drums in that band and also loved singing.

Rising rapidly through the ranks, serving as a SAW gunner, grenader and Fire Team Leader in the 2nd Batallion, 504th Parachute infantry Regiment. SSgt Jeremy Horton was also a free-fall sport parachutist. He was also an avid motorcyclist.

In January 2002, SSgt Jeremy Horton and his wife arrived in Germany where he was assigned as the team leader and later squad leader in Charlie Company, 1st Battalion 6th Infantry at Baumholder. He was promoted to Staff Sergeant in March 2003 and deployed with the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom. He joined Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 6th infantry while deployed, serving as the commander's personal security detachment before being selected as the 1st Platoons weapon squad leader. SSgt Horton's element operated in the Jisr Diyala sector and secured the Tuwaytha Nuclear Research Facility. In October 2003, he volunteered to be the Alpha Section Leader, commanding his first Bradley Fighting Vehicle.

Staff Sergeant Jeremy Horton gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country in the line of duty while serving near Al Iskandariyah, Iraq on May 21, 2004 when an improvised vehicle borne explosive device exploded while his convoy was stopped for another roadside bomb. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

SSgt. Jeremy Horton had a wonderful outgoing personality and was always the first to lend a hand. He lived life to the fullest.  Jeremy will be forever loved and missed by all who knew him.


As the Fallen Soldiers picnic we honor heroes from our community who were killed in action during OIF/OEF and after 2003.  We also honor those from our community who have lost their battle with PTSD as a result of their service. 

 ​Eric Turner
SSGT. Eric Turner, formerly of McKean PA and recently of Corry, PA, was born in 1984 in our beloved Erie County to Helen and Carl Turner and grew up in McKean surrounded by his brother and 2 sisters and a loving, close-knit family. As a child, he had extremely close friendships with people who remember their memories of riding the bus, trips to Splash Lagoon, birthday overnight parties fondly. He was all boy and an all-American kid and was looked up to by many as an older brother

Eric was a musician and played the saxophone in the Marching Band and Jazz Band at General McLane High School, where he graduated from in 2003. Eric was an avid outdoorsman and loved hunting, fishing, riding his ATV and playing golf.

As is common with our other honorees, Eric started volunteering at a young age and was proud of his service to our community as a volunteer Fireman at McKean Hose Company.

In 2004, Erie joined the Air Force Reserves, completing basic training at Lackland Air Force Base and then successfully processed thru Firefighter training. His fellow airman state that Eric could always be counted on to get the job done during deployments and to keep everyone laughing when the times got tough.

It was during this deployment to Iraq, that Eric began noticing some changes. His family states that when he came home, he just wasn’t the same. Eric reached out to his command to get help and was seen and evaluated at a prominent hospital for PTSD. Unfortunately, the system failed Eric and he continued to struggle until his passing in September of 2009. SSGT Eric Turner became one of the approximately 22 Veterans whose lives are ended by the injury of Post-Traumatic Stress. His friends and family remember his laugh and will carry his memory with them every day. His passing was very tragic for such a small community

Ken Van Giesen

SSG Kenneth Van Giesen, formerly of Kane, PA and most recently of Millcreek, PA was born in 1980.  He was born into a military family rich in service, pride, and tradition.  As a child, he was involved in 4-H and was surrounded by parents, sisters, and brother in a community where he flourished.  Kenny graduated from Kane Area High School in 1999.  During his high school years, he was a talented athlete, having lettered in football and played in the Don Raabe Big 30 Classic.  It is then that he met his high school sweetheart who supported him throughout his military career. 

Shortly after graduation, SSG Van Giesen joined the Army National Guard as a fuel and electrical systems repair specialist.  Van Giesen went on to become a heavy-vehicle driver, light-wheeled vehicle mechanic, and armament repairman.  Over the next several years, Kenny served in Germany from 2002 to 2003, Iraq from 2005-2006 with the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team and Iraq in 2009 with the 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team and finally in Afghanistan as a valued member of the 131st Transportation Company, 213th Area Support Group.  He served 1400 mobilized days in overseas deployment, completing 4 combat deployments and was one of only 16 Pennsylvania National Guardsmen serving at that level of active duty.  

Kenneth Van Giesen was an enthusiastic soldier who never shied away from the call of duty.  During his 12 years in the National Guard, Van Giesen served more than four total years on active duty.  His selfless dedication to serving our country will be sorely missed.  SSG Van Giessen is remembered as a compassionate, caring and charismatic soldier whose mechanical expertise was second to none.  "they don't come any better than Ken," Cheif Warrant Officer Mike Noble, Cambridge Springs said.  "He was very likable and was everybody's friend.  He was a good leader.  He was very intelligent and technically competent.  Serving with Ken in Iraq made my deployment more tolerable," Noble said.  

He was a member of the American Legion and the Loyal Order of Moose, both in Millcreek, the American Legion Riders and various VFW posts.  He also was a member of the Kane Fish & Game Club.  He was an avid motorcyclist and lover of his pet Bandit.

SSG Van Giesen was killed in 2011 as the result of injuries sustained in the Ghanzi Province of Afghanistan by a roadside improvised explosive device bombing.

In a 2005 interview with The Kane Republican, Van Giesen said he was proud to join the National Guard, like his father before him.  "If I had to do it over again, I still would do it."

Donald Oaks Jr.

Donny, as his loving family and friends call him, grew up in Harborcreek, PA with his best friend, his sister Amber, by his side. He enjoyed hunting, fishing and playing baseball growing up. He followed in his fathers and grandfathers footsteps as an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan. Donny had a giant sense of humor and had many friends to share it with. After graduating high school in 2000, Donny decided to join the Army to gain military benefits to help pay for his higher education. He graduated boot camp at Fort Knox Kentucky. He deployed to Iraq from Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in late January 2003. He was assigned to the C Battery, 3rd Battalion, 13th Field Artillery Regiment as a gunner in a Multiple Launch Rocket System. On April 3, 2003, he was tragically killed by friendly fire, at the mere age of 20. Donny was just 3 weeks shy of his 21st birthday when the war had taken his life. When he joined the Army he turned to writing poetry to express his daily struggles. During his time overseas he relied heavily on letters from home, phone calls to his family, support from his fellow Red Dragon comrades and prayer to get by. Donny was a strong spirited person who always gave his all. The day before he was killed in action he received his Sergeant rank, for which he passed his interview with flying colors. Since his passing his family and friends have made it their mission to ensure he remains honored for his sacrifice.

Eric Groenendaal

SSgt. Eric Groenendaal was born in Erie, PA in 1982, and grew up with two brothers. Eric was the youngest of three.

After graduation from Seneca High School in 2000, he joined the Marine Corp. He completed basic training and was immediately assigned to The Marine Corp Air wing in Miramar California where he was part of the CH53 helicopter squadron. He was in California for 7 years and then was assigned to a new Ch53 squadron in Cherry Point, N.C.

When he would come home on leave he enjoyed being home for a while, but you could tell he was ready to get back to base. He would always hang out with his best friend Dave Mcquiston. Eric was a funny kid and always kept his family laughing. He was a caring person. Known among his peers as the “Cobra Commander,” Groenendaal's timely death has had a profound impact on those he served with.

At the time of his death, SSgt Groenendaal was serving as a staff noncommissioned officer with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 366. “There’s not a Marine in this squadron who didn’t personally know, respect and admire Staff Sgt. Groenendaal,” said Capt. Derrick F. Breville, assistant operations officer for HMH-366. “Few people can have as much positive influence on a command climate as Groenendaal did. He led from the front and created an atmosphere where Marines could grow and excel.” Eric was considered the "go-to Marine" by all of his fellow Marines. He was a Marine of remarkable character, positive attitude with the technical expertise to back it up. Eric was known to stay in the hangars on his off time, constantly teaching his Marines everything they needed to know. He was a mentor who was never belittling, always encouraging and believed in a Marines ability to learn. Groenendaal was cited with frequently telling his Marines: “The second you think you know everything, is the second you’re useless to the squadron. SSgt Groenendaal was a great leader, and he was humble about it. He is fondly remembered and sorely missed by all he served with.

Eric completed 4 deployments to Iraq, 1 deployment to the Horn of Africa and had spent a short time in Afghanistan. He had become a Staff Sergeant and was looking forward to being a Gunny Sergeant in the Marine Corp Air Wing. He was proud of being a Marine and proud to serve his country.

Eric suffered from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) that was devastating to him and eventually ended his life. Eric passed in December of 2010. At the time of his death, he had served in the Marine Corp for ten years. 

He is missed and loved each and every day. He is our hero and we wait for the day to meet again.

Business Address:  1126 East 33rd Street Erie PA 16504

Copyright © 2019 Fallen Soldiers Picnic


Bryan Bell

Bryan Richard Bell was born at UPMC Hamot Hospital in Erie, PA in 1988.  Growing up, Bryan was always on the go and very active; he was fun to be with, always joking and making someone laugh.  Early in his senior year at Harbor Creek High School, he decided to enlist in the United States Air Force.  After graduating from high school in 2006, Bryan went to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX for Basic Military Training.  Continuing in 2007, he went to Eglin Air Force Base in Pensacola, FL to complete his training as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician (Bomb Squad).  He was stationed in Shreveport, LA at Barksdale Air Force Base in 2008, and assigned to the 2nd Civil Engineering Squadron.  His first tour overseas took him to Iraq in 2010 where he was credited with clearing 430 undetonated explosive devices.  His next tour was in October 2011, taking him to Afghanistan.  During his support of Operating Enduring Freedom, he aided in clearing IEDs from an area of 745 square miles and was responsible for 209 successful clearing missions.  On January 5, 2012, Bryan and the other 2 members of Team Tripwire were killed in action in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.  Bryan has been awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Iraq and Afghanistan Campaign medals, Combat Action and the Air Force Commendation Awards.  

The family is grateful for the dedications that have been made in memory of Bryan.  The Whitford Park Playground is now called Bryan Bell Memorial Playground, the eastbound bridge over Six Mile Creek on I-90 has been dedicated in his name, and the gym at Barksdale AFB has been renamed to the Bryan Bell Fitness Center. His name has also been placed on the EOD Memorial Wall at Eglin AFB in Florida.  Bryan is survived by his wife, Alaina Bell; mother and stepfather, Donna and David Aldrich; father and stepmother, Richard and Kim Bell; sister Senior Airman Candice White (Staff Sergeant Chris White); and stepsiblings Stephanie Battista (Chris Battista) and Matthew Aldrich. Bryan is missed by all and will forever be remembered as a loving and generous gentle giant and a true hero for his ultimate sacrifice.

Fallen Soldiers Picnic

May 25th 2019  3PM - 9PM

Jarrid King

Cpl Jarrid Lee King was born at Naval Hopsital NAS Millington, TN in 1990 into a proud Military family. In 1993, after his Fathers enlistment in the Marine Coprs, his family moved to Harborcreek . As a boy growing up in Harborcreek, Jarrid enjoyed little league baseball and wrestling. At the height of 5’6”, and a slim build, Jarrid participated in Harbor Creek High School’s wrestling program while in seventh, eighth, and ninth grades, and competed in the 119-pound weight class as a freshman at Harborcreek High School. As a teenager Jarrid enjoyed listening to music, playing his guitar and spending time with his close friends and his two brothers. During these years, Jarrid aspired to be a career military man.  He was determined, polite, pleasant, always smiling and known for his free spirit and independent approach to life. 

Jarrid joined the Army in March 2009 and after completing training at Fort Leonardwood, Missouri. He was assigned to the 7th Engineer Battalion, 10th Sustainment Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, 693rd Sapper Company Fort Drum, NY. In April of 2010, Jarrid deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom to Afghanistan. He was assigned to 3rd Plt as the gunner on the lead MRAP. Jarrid received numerous military awards and decorations, including the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart, the Combat Action Badge, Good Conduct Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, and the NATO Medal.  

Jarrid wrote that his Heroes were “everyone defending our country”.  He also documented that what he truly believed in was:  “It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of press.  It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.  It is the soldier, who salutes the flag, whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protestor to burn the flag." On January 12, 2011 enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device in the Ghelan Prrovince of Afghanistan. Two of his fellow Soldiers, Staff Sgt. Omar Aceves and Spc. Benjamin G. Moore, were also killed. Jarrid was 20 years young when he paid the ultimate price for our freedoms.

On March 14, 2012 the Pennsylvania State Legislature designated the westbound bridge carrying Interstate 90 over Six Mile Creek in Harborcreek Township, Erie County, as the Jarrid L. King Memorial Bridge. Jarrid is honored and remembered fondly by his Mother and Father, Don and Beth, his brothers Jason and Jonathan, many family members, friends and a loving community.