City to dedicate 'Daniel Unger Memorial Park'

By Reggie Ellis

On Wednesday morning, Aug. 25 Marc Unger took his family to the city-owned park in the Park Place subdivision at the corner of Belmont Road and Glaze Avenue.

When they arrived, Unger's daughter, Elizabeth, seemed enamored with the park telling her father what a beautiful park it was. The bright-eyed 13-year-old's eyes got even bigger and brighter when her father explained why they had come to the park, and why they would be spending lots of time there in the future.

"I'm glad you like it," her dad said. "This is going to be the Daniel Unger Memorial Park."

A specialist in the 1st Battalion, 185th Armored Regiment, 81st Separate Armor Brigade, Alpha Company, Marc's son, 19-year-old Daniel, was killed in Iraq during a mortar attack at about 3:30 p.m. on May 25 at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, located 25 miles south of Baghdad while saving the lives of two Iraqi civilians.

Mayor Leon Ooley told Marc the news earlier that morning before the family took a trip to the park. At the Aug. 24 Exeter City Council meeting, the mayor said that developer, Chris Bitterlin, had proposed dedicating the park to Daniel. The council agreed on the matter as long as the Unger family was in favor of the idea. Ooley spoke to the Ungers last Thursday.

"We think it is wonderful," said Marc, pastor of the Exeter Baptist Church. "This park will be a tribute to an indomitable spirit of a young man committed to Jesus Christ, keeping his country free and allowing the Iraqi people to be free."

Bitterlin said he was so moved by Daniel's story that he had to do something.

"I never met him or his family but after reading his story in The Exeter Sun I thought, 'What an incredible story of a human being who died doing what he felt was his mission in life,'" he said from his San Diego office.

"I wanted to do something that would have a huge impact on the community."

Bitterlin donated the four-acre park to the City of Exeter as part of a 1991 development agreement. Bitterlin's company didn't break ground on the subdivision until August 2002 because of a bad housing market in the 1990s.

The City of Exeter said the dedication will be sometime in early October. Councilmembers also agreed they should look into establishing a place in the park where other men and women who are killed in the Armed Services can be honored.

Marc said he and his family will take trips to the park to remember Daniel, who was also a sixth degree blackbelt and played baseball for Exeter Union High School.

"We can come play catch here," Marc said his daughter told him that morning.

"I said, 'That's pretty cool.'"

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