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ST. MARYS — St. Marys Memorial High School was abuzz with chatter Monday afternoon, with students, facility, staff and veterans in anticipation of its Veterans Day program.
The veterans being honored filed into the large, brick building just as the snow began to fall. They sat with their families around a large, bronze plaque that hung proudly like a centerpiece on the wall in front of them.
“Those who served, Memorial High School is so-named to honor the St. Marys area men and women who have served in America’s armed forces, including those listed below, who are among the many who gave their lives in our country’s wars,” the plaque reads.
It goes on to list veterans from World Wars I and II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. The plaque is the fruition of more than a year’s planning by the MHS History Preservation Committee, whose main function is to incorporate elements of the old high school into the new school. Committee member Robert “Buz” Howard presented the plaque in honor of veterans who were also St. Marys alumni.
“We wanted to research the names of soldiers who died in the various 20th century wars,” Howard said.
“Some of these names were on plaques in the old school, and we wanted to consolidate them ... And put them in one big, nice commemorative plaque here in the new school.”
Louis Sell played a large part in aiding the committee with the research. Sell, like his brother Bill Sell — who died in 1998 — helped keep accurate records of local veterans.
Funding for the plaque came from 38 donors — these included individuals, families, businesses and other organizations in St. Marys. Midnet Media, a Minster company, made the plaque design and production possible, Howard said.
As the ceremony began, Howard explained that the old high school’s name, “Memorial,” did not commemorate war veterans like so many had thought, but was named in memory of the wife of the man who donated the land on which the school sat.
After a survey by the local school board deemed it so, Memorial High School is now named in memory of the St. Maryans who fought to protect the country.
“We hope that this particular piece of bronze will last for generations to come in order to remind us of people from our community who made sacrifices for all of us,” Howard said.
The ceremony continued with several speakers — first was Chad Doll, St. Marys Social Studies Department Chair.
“We celebrate Veterans Day to honor all veterans — men and women of all the branches of our military,” Doll said. “They are our fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, uncles and grandfathers. For some of us, they may include a great-great grandfather who fought with Sherman in Atlanta ... But the time and place do not matter, for all these heroes deserve our thanks.”
Keynote speaker John Andreoni, a St. Marys alum and adjunct professor at Edison Community College, served during the Vietnam War. His speech was not the glorified, Hollywood approach that “(Veterans) are all heroes.” His message was that the people who serve and have served (and maybe have died) in the military did so either because their nation demanded it of them or because they demanded it of themselves.
“It doesn’t make us heroes, and it doesn’t necessarily make us brave,” Andreoni said. “It does, however, make us all special because we swear to defend freedom.”