The term "patriot" goes far beyond the school mascot at Wheeling Park High School, as demonstrated by a new memorial formally dedicated Tuesday afternoon which honors Wheeling Park alumni who served in the United States military and lost their lives in action.
"Being called a patriot to me means a lot more," Leo Boisey said. "Being a patriot is synonymous with being a veteran."
Boisey said there are 24 million veterans in the United States who still bear scars of their time in the service. He said civilians have the important responsibility to remember veterans and do whatever they can to help them and their families.
Photo by Daniel Dorsch
This memorial in front of Wheeling Park High School will serve to memorialize all alumni of the school who die serving in the United States Military.
"It's all of our responsibility to keep this nation great," Boisey said. "Since the birth of our nation, men and women have made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve our freedom. Don't believe they were fearless. They just rose above their fear to do what must be done. Keep them in your prayers and thoughts."
The new memorial, designed by Wheeling Park High School art teacher Edward "Buzzie" Evans, will bear the names of WPHS alumni who were killed in action.
Two name plaques were already prepared for mounting on Tuesday as the families of U.S. Army Sergeant Matthew Hunter and Captain David VanCamp stood beside Boisey. Hunter was killed in Baghdad in January 2006 while VanCamp died in Baghdad in 2011.
"We sincerely thank them for their service," Boisey said as Ohio County Superintendent of Schools Dianna Vargo presented the plaques to each family.
Looking at the memorial, Boisey said Evans, a veteran himself, captured the spirit of servicemen and women very well.
"You can tell by the determination in the eagle's eyes that he knew what it means to serve," Boisey said. "The eagle's eyes are vigilant and show a sense of seriousness."
During the memorial dedication ceremony representatives from Wheeling's American Legion Post One served as honor guard with flags for each branch of military, accompanied by representatives from local military recruiters. Wheeling Park High School's band and choir students performed at the event, performing the Star Spangled Banner, a U.S. Armed Forces salute and other patriotic pieces.
"It is a beautiful tribute," Vargo said. "We are so proud of our students who served our country, and we wanted to honor them, their service and their sacrifice."
Boisey also took a moment to recognize more than six WPHS students who will be serving in the military after graduation.
"We thank you for your service in advance," Boisey said.
Boisey said just one day each year dedicated to remembering veterans is not enough.
"It's very easy to take freedoms for granted," he said. "We've lived with freedoms all our lives but they didn't happen on their own. Someone had to fight for them."