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'Wall of Honor' unveiled at Oswego High : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
'Wall of Honor' unveiled at Oswego High
Photos of over 100 grads who served or are now serving in military on display

by Lyle R. Rolfe


About 200 people, including many local veterans, attended the unveiling of the Wall of Honor in an entryway at Oswego High School this past Thursday.

The wall consists of four framed sets of more than 100 photos of OHS students who either previously served or are currently serving in our nation's military.

The wall includes local veterans dating back to 1910.

Many veterans were present for the unveiling, some in uniform and others in civilian clothes.

Also introduced were 23 seniors who will enter the military when they graduate on May 17.

Plans for the wall began about three years ago as an idea of Paula Hilderbrand, a faculty adviser for the school's Interact Club.

Mike Wayne, OHS principal, opened the event by asking the OHS alumni veterans in the audience to stand and be recognized.

Tim McCann, chief judge for the 23rd Judicial Circuit Court and a 1977 OHS graduate, was the featured speaker.

"This formal recognition of your service to our country is long overdue and we express our sincere appreciation for all that you have done," McCann told the veterans.

"Military service is a special form of commitment to the concept of placing service before self. As veterans you voluntarily took on the irresponsibility for the safety and security of this great nation. Your willingness to place your lives on the line for us creates a debt that we can never repay," he continued.

McCann noted that veterans serve without asking for recognition, and give of their time, talents and energies and often give much more.

"Some pay with permanent damage to their bodies. Some pay with their lives. Some pay with emotional and or psychological trauma that may never be resolved. All of them pay," he said.

McCann noted how the people of Oswego through the American Legion, the high school marching bands, and other groups, support and recognize veterans each year on Memorial Day and other days through various events including the Memorial Day parade.

"When I was in grade school, local children could participate in the parade by decorating their bicycles putting baseball cards in the spokes, holding the cards in place with a clothes pin and riding down Main Street as part of the parade," he said, adding, "I've always wondered how many potentially valuable baseball cards were chewed up by those bicycle spokes and also wonder if today's high school students know what a clothes pin is."

McCann read a quote from President John F. Kennedy that he said he believes is still appropriate for our times.

"Our servicemen and women are serving throughout the world as guardians of peace-many of them away from their homes and their families. They are visible evidence of our determination to meet any threat to the peace with measured strength and high resolve. They are also evidence of a harsh but escapable truth-that the survival of freedom requires great cost and commitment and great personal sacrifice," he said.

"Illinois has a rich history of recognition of the sacrifices made by our veterans," he said referring to a famous quote by Abraham Lincoln to Mrs. Bixby who lost five sons on the field of battle. He noted that Lincoln said he felt his words were "weak and fruitless".

"I feel much like Abraham Lincoln when I say how weak and fruitless may be my words to the veterans today. But on behalf of myself, my family and all residents of the Oswego School District, I simply and humbly say, Thank You."

Anna Dutton president of the OHS Interact Club, told the audience the club had exceeded their expectations for the school year.

"As a club, we have made a significant impact on the Oswego and OHS community. Whether it was bell ringing for the Salvation Army or raising funds for the Dave Marsenko scholarship. We work together to make the community a better place to live.

"But the project that has been closest to my heart has been the Wall of Honor. Not only did my grandfather serve in Vietnam, but my closest friend is joining the Army. Ruby Garcia, a former student a OHS will be attending West Point this summer to begin her military journey. She has been looking forward to this since she was a young girl.

"I asked her one day why she felt so passionate about serving our country and she replied: 'It's not really what I'm doing for my country. I think of it as an opportunity that my country has given to me.' I am in complete awe in the selflessness that my best friend possesses. Being able to honor men and women just like my grandfather and Ruby has been a special experience."

Dutton said the 2014 graduation means they will add 23 more OHS graduates to the wall. She then invited the students to the stage and asked each one to give their name and branch of service they are entering.

The graduates are Collin Backus, Kushtrim Balazi, Dakota Barringer, Isaac Bates, Joseph Castillo, Kevin Claus, Alyssa Falge, Jeremiah Fitzpatrick, Matthew Frigo, Joshua Jamerson and Alexandra Janiak.

Also, Georgio Lawson, Nicholas Lucent, Brandon Mobrey, Chandler Mason, Thomas Mereness, Brandon Miska, Brendan Mittman, Alexander Perello, Nicholas Schultz, Austin Slezak, Denzel Valenti and David Vanden Houten.

"When I told them about all of you being here, they got excited about being here and really want to hear your stories," she said, referring to the honored OHS veterans.

Hilderbrand said she provided pizza Friday at lunch time for the 2014 grads who will be leaving soon for the military.

"That was a lot of pizza," she said.

"I got to know them a bit better over pizza and invited them here tonight with their families, recruiters and whoever else they wanted to bring. What an impressive group of students," Hilderbrand said.

"When I was putting this together I started thinking 'What a cool job do I have to be able to do something like this and in a small way honor and say thank you to these amazing alumni. And Welcome home Panthers. It's good to have you back," she added.

Hilderbrand said the project took a lot of help and she went through the names and titles of the many who contributed. They included staff members, teachers, students, administrators, veterans from the American Legion, and others.

"Every volunteer made a big contribution," she said.

The National Anthem was sung by students Maureen O'Hara, Sarah Obert, Denzel Valenti and Matt Hughes, and the Pledge of Allegiance was presented by Kevin Claus who was named Wall of Honor Committee Chairman of the OHS Interact Board for the project.

When the program ended, the Wall of Honor was unveiled.

Refreshments prepared by the school's student chefs were served.

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