West Ranch High School officially unveiled its Wall of Honor Friday, which pays tribute to 138 West Ranch alumni who chose to serve in the military and as first responders.
“The wall… is here to all honor all West Ranch graduates that have not only gone on to serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard, but also those that serve as first responders involved in law enforcement, fire departments and as EMTs,” Principal Mark Crawford said.
The 15-foot by 10-foot Wall of Honor includes the seals of each branch of service, the outline of four servicemen and an American flag. In the upcoming months, the wall will also include the names of all 138 alumni on plaques located adjacent to the wall’s mural.
“They [the plaques] will have a blue background to go with West Ranch High School,” Crawford said. “There will be two names in gold, Jake Suter and Jonn Flath, for those students who gave their lives in service to our country.”
Planning for the Wall of Honor began more than a year ago when ASB student and current senior Rory Mita approached Crawford about honoring those who have served.
“I noticed we didn’t have a memorial wall at West Ranch and I really wanted to honor the people who have graduated and served,” said Mita, whose brother and three uncles have served or are currently serving in the military.
Mita also wanted to create a place to honor his neighbor Jake Suter, who was killed in action in Afghanistan in May 2010, and his brother’s friend Jonn Flath, who died a year later during ROTC training.
“These were two West Ranch graduates, just a few years apart in age gone far too soon,” he said. “This wall was made to honor the living and the fallen as a simple token of our thanks for everything that they do to keep us safe.”
After Mita shared his idea with Crawford, he reached out to fellow ASB students Kailey Clark, Erin Meottel and Brooke Shriver to begin developing ideas and fundraising for the wall.
“I have two brothers in the military who both went to West Ranch so last year when Rory came to me with this idea I was 100 percent for it,” senior Erin Meottel said. “I was so honored that he came to me with this beautiful idea.”
Together, the four students set up a GoFundMe with the goal of raising $6,500. In about three months, they surpassed their goal with donations totaling nearly $7,000.
The students also worked with Crawford and Director of Student Activities Todd Arrowsmith to design the mural, meet with artists, determine the budget and develop a long-term plan for the wall.
“It was incredible. They were with me every step of the way… all of their thoughts went into that mural along with Mr. Arrowsmith’s and mine,” Crawford said. “[I have] a lot of pride. It’s not only pride in the finished piece of art that we have, but also the work and effort they put in.”
Crawford was also impressed with the students’ choice to include the names of alumni who became first responders in the Wall of Honor.
“I think it was a foresight of the students to want to include them because they’re out there putting their lives on the line in serving their community so we wanted to honor them as well,” he said.
After a year of work and effort the students are proud to leave a legacy on campus and dedicate a special part of West Ranch to those who chose to serve.
“Our goal was really to create something that shows how much respect and appreciation we have for those who have served our country and I think it embodies it perfectly,” junior Brooke Shriver said. “I hope this wall leaves a lasting impact on the school and community.”
On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_