Perry High School, community groups join together to dedicate Wall of Honor

Throughout its history, the Perry School District has seen a great number of individuals choose to enlist in various branches of the United States Armed Forces, ultimately producing proud servicemen and women who personally take it upon themselves to defend our country.

No one knows this more than Perry Township resident, Marine Corps Vietnam veteran and American Legion member Arnie Stanko. It was Stanko’s seemingly “in the wind” inquiry to Perry High School Assistant Principal Scott Niedzwiecki last November regarding how the school and community should honor its veterans that planted the seed which produced the “Wall of Honor.” “It literally was discussed right there,” Stanko said, pointing to an area of the school’s parking lot. “Just like that. We knew for 2016 we wanted to do something special, and not only for this Veterans Day, but something that would have a permanent placement in the school for all generations of students to see every day.”

The showcase honors men and women with a personal plaque mounted in dual display cases, prominently located directly outside of the school’s Goodwin Theater. Every plaque features the veteran’s name, along with a description of his or her military service.

The dedication ceremony, held on Nov. 10—the Marine Corps’ 241st birthday—at the school, recognized Perry School District staff and students, past and present, who have served in the military.

Niedzwiecki said ideas were immediately planned to take action after he and Stanko’s parking lot conversation.

“The Perry School District has partnered with local veterans’ organizations to compile a list of individuals currently on active duty who have attended Perry High School or are veterans of the military. Our superintendent and school board were instrumental in providing the space, and it’s a natural fit for the location. Support from the top for this wall has been vital.

“At the start it was a daunting task getting the names of all the men and women who served, but after time they started flowing in, and we’re still receiving names,” he said. “So many community groups stepped forward to assist, including the Perry Amvets (1971), local American Legion members, the Perry Alumni Association, who did a lot of work through Facebook, local residents and veterans and the Perry Joint Fire District, who donated the bronze eagles that sit atop one of the cases. Every aspect of the school community was involved, the choir, band, everyone. This truly was a community-wide, collaborative effort. We haven’t heard ‘no’ from anyone at all.”

During the ceremony, the school recognized Matthew Collins, a senior who is Perry High’s most recent enlistee (U.S. Marines), and U.S. Army veteran and 1936 graduate Karl Locke, 99, who served with General George S. Patton. Locke received a standing ovation.

Mike Warner, retired Concord Township fire chief, Army veteran who served two tours in Vietnam, and now a captain with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, said he was very honored to attend the ceremony. “This is a great thing for Perry. To give up time and effort to not only recognize us but to also recognize new enlistees. It’s when a school does something like this you know the torch is passed. I’m very proud.”

As attendees gathered outside of the theater to view the “Wall of Honor” Ed Klco, mayor of North Perry Village, said the event couldn’t have turned out better, gesturing toward the crowd. “This is truly outstanding,” he said. “This is so much more than what we expected. The coordinators and the district did a lot of research to make this a reality. So much hard work put this together. It’s absolutely beautiful. “I’m also a veteran, Army, so being one makes this showcase and ceremony even more special.”

Future additions to the wall may be made by supplying the information requested on the application form. For additional information call 440-259-9300.