COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Gov. Mike DeWine welcome Ohio Gold Star Families to the Statehouse Veterans Plaza on Friday morning.

“To all the gold star families with us today and those who are not, we are humbled by your sacrifices as we know they are great,” DeWine said. “And we know the pain is intense.”

“Ohio as a family, as a family, has contributed vitally to this nation,” said Frank LaRose, veteran and secretary of state.

It was an emotional morning for those Gold Star Families, like Jonathan Etterling’s parents.

“Jonathan was a marine from the get-go,” his father, William Etterling, said. “Stubborn, loud, opinionated.

Jonathan was a U.S. Marine, and his father said his son was known as the “rock” among his friends.

“Because he was the encourager,” Etterling said. “He was the one that said we can do this, no matter how tough it got.”

Etterling said his son traveled to Hawaii, Thailand, Korea and Japan.

“But he never made it to Australia, which is where he really wanted to go because they changed him over to Iraq,” he said.

He said one Saturday morning in January of 2005, when Jonathan was in Iraq, he called home, but something seemed different.

“I said ‘John, you’re not talking, what’s wrong?’ And I’ll never forget, he said ‘I just wanted to hear your voices.’ He knew he was going into something, he couldn’t tell us, but he knew he was going into deep trouble,” Etterling said.

Etterling said that Saturday was the last he heard from his son.

“The following Wednesday, the marines came to the house to notify us that he was gone, in a helicopter crash that killed 31 soldiers,” he said.

Jonathan was only twenty-two years old when he died serving.

“This weekend is when a grateful nation pauses to remember those who did just that,” LaRose said.

“Freedom has a great price. The Gold Star Families here can tell you what that price is, and it’s a price that doesn’t go away,” Etterling said. “It’s there day after day, week after week and year after year. Yet the pride is there also and the love that we feel for our loved ones.”

Etterling and Ohio’s top elected officials are urging the community to keep our soldiers, both fallen and actively serving, in their minds during the Memorial Day weekend.

“We are blessed to live in the land of liberty, the land of opportunity, but we know that those blessings do not come without cost,” DeWine said.

“They’ll never be forgotten,” Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted (R-Ohio) said. “Never be forgotten.”

DeWine has ordered the flags to be flown at half-staff Monday from sunrise until noon.