June 13, 2005

Fallen Heroes Memorial

Recently at Mookie's high school, they held a ceremony to dedicate a new memorial. Gar-Field High School has lost two alumni in Iraq, and another school in our county, Hylton High, lost two more, including one last week. I've heard that there is another one or two from other schools, but I don't have any solid information about that.

The write-up was in the local paper, but because I'm not confident that their links will last for any length of time, I've reprinted almost the entire article in the extended entry (click below on "light this candle...").

One interesting note. I've heard that while setting up this memorial, a search was made for similar things done at other schools. Apparently, their research turned up the fact that no school has dedicated a permanent Memorial to the military since midway through the Vietnam War. This was attributed to the fact that wartime memorials fell out of favor at that time because of the general anti-war and anti-military feelings of the public. Take that with a grain of salt, because although I thought it interesting enough to mention, it's all second-and-third-hand information.

In any case, I'm very proud of the school for doing this. Mookie and Robyn were at the dedication, and they said it was a moving and emotional event. Pictures of the memorial will be posted in the next day or two (assuming Rachael gets a few moments between classes).

Gar-Field honors fallen graduates

Amanda Stewart
Potomac News
Friday, June 3, 2005

It was a time for community, shared memories and some tears.
Students, parents, teachers and other members of the community gathered Thursday at Gar-Field Senior High School in Woodbridge for the dedication of the school's new Fallen Heroes Memorial.

The memorial honors the three Gar-Field graduates who died while serving in the military: class of 2002 graduates Brian Medina and David Ruhren, who died in Iraq, and class of 1968 graduate Richard Yates, who died in Vietnam.

The dedication ceremony was a time for teachers, students, family members and others touched by the lives of the soldiers to remember them.

"Though separated by several decades, each in their own way answered the call of their country and gave the ultimate sacrifice," said Bill Willis, physics teacher and chair of the Gar-Field Memorial Committee.

The memorial contains three plaques bearing soldiers' names and pictures under the words "Honoring Through Remembrance."

"The greatest reward for teachers is to make a difference in a student's life," Willis said. "This memorial is our way of thanking our students for making a difference in our lives."

Yates was killed in action in South Vietnam in 1969. Willis spoke on Yates's behalf at the ceremony.

Yates was eager to do his part and serve his country in the Vietnam War, Willis said.

"Even though it's been 35 years, it's never too late to say thank you," he said.

Brian Medina was killed in action in Fallujah in November.

His father, Greg Medina, spoke on his behalf at the ceremony.

Like many other soldiers, Medina was proud to enter the Marine Corps after graduation, Greg Medina said. Medina looked forward to going to Iraq and serving his country there, his father said.

David Ruhren was killed in a mess hall tent bombing in Mosul in December.

His mother, Sonja Ruhren, wrote a letter to him which Willis read at the ceremony.

Ruhren was also proud to join the Army after graduation. Sonja Ruhren recalled the special relationship she had with her son and the plans he had for his future, she said in her letter.

The ceremony ended with the unveiling of the memorial which will remain on display in the school.

At the ceremony's closing, the Junior ROTC folded a flag that was flown over the American Embassy in Iraq in honor of Medina and Ruhren and placed it at the memorial.

The school's choir and band also performed.

In his closing remarks, Willis stressed the importance of remembering not only the soldiers who lost their lives in combat, but also those who continue to serve the country today.

"We should never forget those who serve at this moment, in distant places," Willis said.

Yates, the young man who was killed in Vietnam, was a crewmember on a medivac helicopter. After loading wounded onto his aircraft, he jumped back out to gather their personal gear and was shot in the back while climbing back inside. He died during the flight back to the medical facility.

Posted by Ted at June 13, 2005 05:04 AM
Category: Links Military

I graduated from Hylton. That's a somber little reality check. Sigh.

Posted by: shank at June 13, 2005 08:25 AM
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