WESTLINE – Hugs, tears and stories were common sights at the Westline Inn on Saturday morning as veterans, friends and family of the late Staff Sgt. Carl Enis honored him at a dedication ceremony for his heroism that cost him his life.
Enis was a pararescue jumper in the U.S. Air Force.
Giving heartfelt speeches commending Enis’ courage were state Rep. Martin Causer, R-Turtlepoint; U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa.; and Rodger Klenovich, an event organizer and a former pararescue jumper himself.
The bridge that was dedicated to the late staff sergeant is located on U.S. Route 219 over the Kinzua Creek. The bridge, known by some as the Tally Ho Bridge, is officially the Staff Sergeant Carl Enis Memorial Bridge with signs displayed on both sides of the bridge – which were revealed as part of the ceremony.
Causer, who was named master of ceremonies, told those in attendance he was honored to be at the event and to pay homage to such a hero as Enis.
“It’s truly an honor and I appreciate being here with you, and pay tribute to Carl Enis,” Causer said. “This young man made the ultimate sacrifice for us when he was killed in a helicopter crash in western Iraq last spring.”
Causer explained that Enis was not originally from McKean County, but had family in the county and enjoyed visiting the area.
He added, “It’s so fitting that we remember him here both as a carefree child who loved visiting his family in McKean County and as a young man who put his country and our freedoms before himself.”
Causer then looked to the table with Enis’ family and said, “To Staff Sgt. Enis’ family, I am deeply sorry for your loss and honored for the opportunity to meet you.”
“Their lives remind us that freedom is not bought cheaply; it has a cost and imposes a burden,” said Causer, explaining how veterans put their lives at stake for freedom. “And just as they who we commemorate were willing to sacrifice, so too must we – in a less final, less heroic way – be willing to give of ourselves.”
Thompson commended Causer’s diligence for getting the legislation for the bridge dedication passed and described the process as a difficult one.
“It seems like it’s pretty simple: one day there’s not a sign nor ceremony and the next day there is. But the government doesn’t work that way,” he said. “It takes a champion to marshal such an appropriate initiative such as dedicating this bridge in the name of a true American hero, and I want to thank Marty for introducing that legislation and marshalling it throughout the whole process because it’s not just (passed in) the house where he serves. He has got to get the legislation to the senate and he needs the governor to be able to sign that legislation into place.”
Thompson offered a connection with the surviving family of Enis, explaining that his son made the decision to serve.
“I’m a military parent; I have a son who was wounded in Iraq. So first of all, thank you to the family for your sacrifice. When Carl was serving, you served at the same time – in a different way,” Thompson said. “With my personal experiences, it’s much different than what family members who serve in the military do, but it’s just as hard. Thank you for your family’s service and thank you for your family’s sacrifice.”
Klenovich a former Airman and pararescue jumper, said he was impressed by Enis’ interest and passion for wanting to save lives.
“Carl mainly asked me my impression of the quality of training and general technical questions. After he left, I thought to myself, ‘This young man wants to be a (pararescue jumper) for all the right reasons. He’s not interested too much in the hoorah mentality and he is not a glory seeker, he just plain wants to save lives,’” he explained. “I was thinking, ‘His mom and dad are both doctors, and his grandma was a nurse – it’s in his DNA.”
Thompson described to those in attendance one of the things he looks forward to when in Washington.
“One of the things I like to reflect on is when I make visits to the Pentagon, there is a stairwell that you go down that’s near the office of the Secretary of Defense. There sits this wonderful portrait on the wall that shows a member of our military in camouflage, and it speaks to the heart of every man and woman who has served this nation and will serve this nation in the future. He is at the altar of a church with family members there and there’s a quote from a scripture from Isaiah and it’s the voice of God asking, ‘Who shall I send? Who will go for me?’ And Carl responded to that calling.”