It is rare I post a blog entry that does not deal with foster care or adoption. However, today I must make an exception.
This past weekend (July 29-31, 2011) Boys Town Alumni returned to the place they call home for a reunion. It was a time of sharing memories of days gone by, renewing friendships with brothers/sisters (Boys Town began accepting girls in 1976). It is a time many of us look to every two years.
This reunion, though many events were memorable, had one event that stood above them all. Saturday (July 29) was dedication to the restored and updated Veterans Memorial honoring fallen brothers in service to their country.
Boys Town dedicated the original memorial at a reunion in 1991. It was simple but definitley left one who visited know that the young man who answered the call of their country and fell would not be fogotten as time went on. However unless one personally knew one of the fallen most alumni did not how many or who had fallen.
Each reunion a ceremony is held at the memorial to remember as a whole those who died. It usually gathered a not so large crowd of attendees as few could relate on a personal level to anyone.
George Buckler ’64 at a recent reunion had an idea to refurbished the memorial and to include marble slates on which bronze plaques would be placed inscribed with the name of the fallen. The idea was quickly adopted by the Alumni Association Board and the project was underway in November 2010. Funds were raised (over$20,000 was need and this goal has not been completely met as yet), planning, designing, etc.
On Friday I however made a visit to the site alone. I wanted a private time to reflect and shed a tear for one young man whose name is now on the wall. James Acklin was one of my best friends during years at Boys Town. He was also my debate partner in our senior year. I remember the grief when hearing of Jim’s death. Of course the greif was far, far greater for the young wife & two sons left behind (Rose, Jamie & Joey).
Saturday brought the fruition of all the efforts that had been made. The dedication was simple but memorable. This year hundreds made sure they were in place for the ceremony. It began with Posting of the Colors by the Boys Town Junior ROTC Color Guard, National Athem, Pledge of Allegiance & Prayer.
The guest speaker was John E. Hamilton, Junior Vice Commander VFW.
Flags that were flown in Afghanistan were given to the BT ROTC and Alumni Association by SSgt Mary, Baille USAF, herself a Boys Town alumn and recently returned from Afghanistan;
It concluded with a Prayer, Taps & Retiring of the Colors.
I know a few tears, mine & others, were shed during the ceremony. I concluded being there by slowly going to the wall and gently touching Jimmy’s name.
Now alumni and current residents of Boys Town will know by name those who answered the call of their country and gave their all by name.
Seventy-one ( confirmed deaths )young men’s names are now on the memorial: forty-four from WWII, four from from Korea, seventeen from Viet Nam, one from Iraq/Afghanistan and six while still in uniform. Some new ones may be addeed in time when confirmation of their deaths are received or future conflicts.
Father Flanagan taught, his sucessors continued to teach, that one must honor their faith, family and country. These men learned that lesson as well as many others who have served and were able to return home. Over 800 alumni served in WWII. Over 2,000 aluni have served whether during war time or at peace.
After December 7, 1941, the 22 member class of 1942 wanted to immediately enlist. Fr. Flanagan convinced them to await their graduation. On the afternoon of their graduation they marched to the recruitment office..all 22!
Most of these young men were never able to fulfil the dreams they dreamt while at Boys Town. Most were never to marry and watch their chldren grow up. They heard the call of their country and they answered.
In the future I am sure a young woman’s name will be added to the wall as girls are not only now a part of the alumni of Boys Town but also are serving our country.
There are cities in this country that have memorials which may remember 71 young men/women who have fallen. I am sure however there is no high school in the country as Boys Town who have had so many serve as well as so many fall in that service. Service to country and others is a trademark of Boys Town.
Boys Town and its alumni are proud to call them brothers of the family of Boys Town. It is hoped for generations yet to come that they will be remembered. This newly refurbished memorial should help to accomplish this mission. It is hoped by me and some others that soon the Alumni Board will approve a move to make any alumni who has fallen in service to their country will be made Lifetime Members of the BTNAA. The majority of alumni who have fallen fell before there was the BTNAA and others fell too early to have had the chance to possibly even join the association yet alone become Lifetime members. This and the memorial is the least we can do in remembrance of the sacrifice they have made in our behalf.
When someone asks me about heroes…I will point them to this memorial of 71 heroes! Rest in Peace my fellow Boys Town brothers!