300 veterans celebrate birthday of Hamilton boy whose dad died in Iraq

Published: Friday, May 19, 2017 @ 3:13 PM
Updated: Friday, May 19, 2017 @ 3:23 PM

Aiden Luff, 7, asked for military veterans to come to his birthday party so he could feel closer to his father, who died in Iraq.

Move over Batman and take Robin with you.

Fly away Superman.

You too Spiderman

There are new super heroes in town, at least in the eyes of a 7-year-old Hamilton boy.

“Veterans are much cooler,” said Aiden Luff, who just completed first grade at Brookwood Elementary School.

MORE: Organizers hope to grow Hamilton’s Memorial Day Parade

When Katie Luff asked what kind of birthday party her son wanted, he said a party with a military theme. All veterans. Army. Navy. Air Force. Marines. If you served, Aiden wanted you invited.

See on Nov. 21, 2010, when Aiden was only 5 months old, his father, Sgt. David James Luff Jr., 29, died in Tikrit, Iraq after insurgents attacked his unit with small-arms fire, the Department of Defense said.

A Hamilton High School graduate, Luff joined the Army in July 2004 as a tanker and attended training at Fort Knox, Ky. Upon completion, he was assigned to B Company, 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment where he served as a gunner.

In 2006, he was deployed with 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry to Operation Iraqi Freedom for 15 months. In April 2009, he was re-assigned to Able Company, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment “Wolfhounds” where he served as a driver. He was promoted to the rank of sergeant in January of 2010. Seven months later, he deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn as a gunner.

Gold Star Family Katie Luff and her son Aiden, 7, in their Hamilton home, Friday, May 19, 2017. Aiden asked to invite Military Service Veterans to his birthday party so he can feel closer to his dad, Army Sgt. David J. Luff Jr., who was killed in Iraq. GREG LYNCH / STAFF(Staff Writer)

“He’s very proud of veterans and his father,” said Katie Luff, 32, who noted Aiden was 6 weeks old when his father was deployed to Iraq. That was the last time they saw each other.

MORE: Memorial in honor of Middletown Judge Mark Wall to benefit elementary

When Luff’s family and friends started planning the party last week at the Middletown Airport, Katie Luff had no idea how many veterans would respond to a birthday party for a 7-year-old. She figured about 30 people might show up.

Instead it was 300.

Aiden was picked up at Smith Park and rode on the back of Perry Davis’ motorcycle. As they approached the airport, Davis, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Associates, was amazed by the turnout of well-wishers, many of them saluting the young boy.

“You can’t describe it,” he said.

Then he came up with the perfect word: “Awesome.”

WATCH: America’s veterans hailed in grand way at Lakota East High School

Those in attendance showered Aiden with birthday presents, including several Challenge Coins, a leather motorcycle vest stitched with his nickname “Boo Boo” and patches, a military shadow box, dog tags, and he was invited to meet several members of Team Fastrax, a Middletown-based skydiving team that performed.

“He was treated very special,” his mother said. “It was emotional. It was amazing. All these men, all these men who didn’t know my son, showed such kindness and respect like he was family. The number of people, well, it was overwhelming.”

Her son, she said, typically very shy, interacted with those at his party.

“He had the biggest smile all day,” she said. “He thinks he’s famous now.”

MORE: Butler County veterans spending to see double digit increases

She said veterans are special because they appreciate the sacrifices of those in the military and their families.

“They understand and care and let you know not to forget the people who didn’t come home,” she said.

The Luffs were married on Dec. 31, 2008, New Year’s Eve, and he often told fellow soldiers his anniversary was easy to remember.

Less than two years later, he was killed serving his country during his second tour of duty.

When Katie Luff heard the knock at the front door seven years ago, and saw a chaplain standing there, she knew the numbing news: The love of her life, her high school sweetheart, was gone.

“Every life plan was just taken away,” she said. “We had so many things planned. It was so soon. My world collapsed right there.”

MORE: Career fair for veterans set for May 25

Now, she said, her job as a mother is to protect her “best little buddy,” that energetic 7-year-old boy.

“He gave me a purpose to keep my head up and keep marching,” she said.

Every so often, Aiden flashes a facial expression that reminds his mother of his father. Those are good days in the Luff house.

“I still have that piece of Dave,” Katie Luff said.

Xenia school board votes to keep Lofton as chief administrator

Published: Tuesday, December 12, 2017 @ 12:20 PM

Xenia Interim Superintendent Gabriel Lofton
Richard Wilson
Xenia Interim Superintendent Gabriel Lofton(Richard Wilson)

The Xenia school board voted Monday night to negotiate a new longer-term agreement with Gabriel Lofton, the district’s interim superintendent.

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Lofton will no longer be referred to as the interim top administrator starting Jan. 1, and the board will be negotiating a new agreement with Lofton to begin next school year, according to the board’s resolution.

Lofton, previously with Cincinnati Public Schools, was hired by the board over the summer to serve as the interim superintendent on a one-year contact at an annual salary of $145,000.

Board President Pam Callahan said the board initially hired Lofton on an interim basis “to make sure he was a good fit for our district.”

“He had a solid entry plan and has been working that plan from day one,” Callahan said. “We are going to embark on a visioning plan which will include a community forum to seek input regarding a possible building project as well as an academic improvement strategy. We felt Dr. Lofton has integrated himself well into the community and we feel his leadership will move our district forward.”

RELATED >>> Xenia schools name new interim superintendent

Lofton said Tuesday that his time in Xenia has been “excellent” so far and the community has much to be proud of, with teachers putting in extra time to work with students, parents who inspire and volunteer and others from the community “who give their time, expertise, and resources in order for us to continue to be successful and exceed expectations.”

“We are focused on providing our students with an excellent education, in a student-centered environment,” Lofton said. “Take pride in knowing, Xenia Community Schools is committed to educating the “whole” child, has a personalized approach for student success, and has high expectations.”

MORE >>> Xenia schools to form task force in wake of 3 levy defeats

Among Lofton’s challenges will be to oversee two aging school buildings — Xenia High School and Warner Middle School — that the state has deemed fit for renovations or replacement. District voters three times rejected a proposed school tax to pay for a new school building that would replace the high school and middle school.

Dayton to open new $6 million Helena Street bridge

Published: Tuesday, December 12, 2017 @ 12:05 PM

The Helena Street bridge over the Great Miami River in Dayton will reopen Friday with a ribbon cutting at 2 p.m., city officials announced.

The ailing bridge was closed in the fall of 2016 for a $6 million rebuild that features wider sidewalks, improved lighting and a new middle turn lane.

RELATED: Dayton replacing Helena Street bridge for $6M

Since 1999, the city of Dayton has invested almost $65 million to replace 11 bridges.

RELATED Dayton bridge project part of investment

With the reopening of the Helena Street bridge, work will begin on replacing the nearby Keowee Street bridge over the Great Miami River. The Keowee Street bridge, which will close Monday, is providing a detour route for the Helena Street bridge through this week.

Dayton bridge projects

Here’s a look at the completed Dayton bridge projects and their cost (in reverse chronological order):

Webster Street Bridge over the Mad River

Opened: November 2, 2017

Cost: $10.1 million

Broadway Street Bridge over Wolf Creek

Opened: September 16, 2013

Cost: $2.4 million

Rosedale Drive Bridge over Wolf Creek

Opened: October 25, 2011

Cost: $1.9 million

Philadelphia Drive Bridge over Wolf Creek

Opened: January 11, 2011

Cost: $3.4 million

Edwin C. Moses Boulevard Bridge over Wolf Creek (aka the Veterans Memorial Bridge)

Opened: May 13, 2010

Cost: $4.3 million

Stewart Street Bridge over the Great Miami River

Opened: November 30, 2009

Cost: $15.4 million

Dayton Expressway Bridge over Keowee Street

Opened: November 3, 2008

Cost: $6.6 million

Paul Lawrence Dunbar Street Bridge over Wolf Creek

Opened: July 29, 2008

Cost: $2.4 million

Washington Street Bridge over the Great Miami River

Opened: December 6, 2007

Cost: $7.6 million

Findlay Street Bridge over the Mad River

Opened: May 5, 2006

Cost: $4.5 million

Beavercreek City Council rejects marijuana moratorium

Published: Monday, December 11, 2017 @ 8:38 PM

Beavercreek City Council rejects marijuana moratorium

The Beavercreek City Council on Monday night rejected a moratorium on medical marijuana cultivation and processing, with some council members saying the extension of a moratorium would just be engaging in the proverbial act of kicking the can down the road. 

The mayor wanted council to have a discussion about the possibility of passing another moratorium but had the support of only two members. Members against another moratorium said they feared the possibility of losing future applicants for businesses connected to marijuana for medical use. 

The city’s moratorium expired in July.

RELATED: Ohio announces first medical marijuana growers

There is a public meeting planned for Thursday to allow comment on the future of medical marijuana, an update on where the city stands on the issue and what happens if a facility is built in Beavercreek Twp. 

RELATED: Beavercreek mulls extending medical marijuana moratorium

In November, the Ohio Department of Commerce approved four Dayton-area locations for the cultivation of medical marijuana. The licenses issued for those locations are for Level II cultivator status, which are required to be 3,000 square feet or less. 

The state received 185 applications for 24 licenses. Seven other counties in the metro areas of Cleveland, Akron and Columbus won approval for cultivation sites. 

Ohio's medical marijuana law allows people with as many as 20 qualifying medical conditions to buy and use marijuana if they have a recommendation from their physician. The law allows retail stores to sell marijuana plant material, patches, tinctures and oils. The law also allows cities and townships to restrict or prohibit medical marijuana businesses but not use.

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What’s that noise? F-16s to fly over Dayton region at night this week

Published: Tuesday, December 12, 2017 @ 12:02 PM
Updated: Tuesday, December 12, 2017 @ 12:28 PM

            Ohio Air National Guard F-16s were scheduled to fly night training exercises Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, according to a unit spokesman. Here, a jet prepares for takeoff while on temporary duty at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in 2013. CHRIS STEWART/STAFF FILE PHOTO
Ohio Air National Guard F-16s were scheduled to fly night training exercises Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, according to a unit spokesman. Here, a jet prepares for takeoff while on temporary duty at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in 2013. CHRIS STEWART/STAFF FILE PHOTO

F-16 fighter jets were set to fly around the Dayton region Wednesday night, an Ohio Air National Guard spokesman says.

The Toledo-based 180th Fighter Wing will be training through 9 p.m. Thursday, according to the unit.

The jets could travel through the region at any time during the night exercises, said Staff Sgt. Shane Hughes, a wing spokesman.

Southern Ohio is home to the Brush Creek/Buckeye Military Operating Area where the pilots occasionally train.


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