COMMERCE - Bert Norton II had every intention of honoring his fallen hero this Memorial Day weekend by securing a patriotic display to Stepp's Ford Bridge. Apparently, one or more members of the public had the same idea.
Norton said he was pleasantly surprised to learn that flowers and small flags have beem left at the site where his family scattered the ashes of his brother, Tech. Sgt. Jason Norton, Miami's first solder to die in Iraq.
It was Jason Norton's wish that his remains be scattered from the bridge at Stepp's Ford, a quiet place just west of Commerce where his family said he found peace and a bountiful supply of fish.
The fallen soldier's family returns often to that site to remember him and ease their grief.
Bert Norton was denied permission from Ottawa County commissioners to place a memorial plaque on the bridge last year.
County officials voiced concerns of the integrity of the near century-old bridge as well as precedent that would be set.
Norton said he still does not agree with the commission's decision and that he has not given up hope that, one day, all who cross Stepp's Ford Bridge will be reminded of the sacrifice his brother made.
At the close of the Memorial Day weekend, Norton said he will retrieve the patriotic items from the county bridge, out of courtesy to the county.
“In the meantime, I welcome anyone to honor my brother here,” Norton said.
On Thursday, Norton visited the bridge with his young son and his brother's two children. They placed additional flags and ribbons along the bridge, clustering red, white and blue ribbons at the place where the Nortons gathered more than a year ago to honor the wishes of their family member. A smile crossed his face as he saw red carnations and American flags strapped to the bridge trusses by unknown hands.
“It is good to see that the people have not forgotten,” Norton said. “My brother's sacrifice is remembered.”