RACINE — Veterans, Racine Lutheran High School (RLHS) students and community figures gathered together to honor the community's veterans and dedicate RLHS Veterans Project in a ceremony Friday afternoon.
Appearances were made by Jack Stafford of the American Legion Riders, Veteran's Center coordinator Bill May, Mayor John Dickert, the Racine VFW, County Executive Jonathan Delagrave, Rep. Thomas Weatherston, keynote speaker Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and others. The American Legion Riders were also in attendance with their decorated motorcycles sitting in the front line of the school, adorned with patriotic flags.
"We live in the greatest country on Earth, protected by the greatest men and women on Earth," Kleefisch said. "Today is a perfect day to remember, to respect and say 'thank you,' veterans."
The ceremony, which was replete with music provided by Racine Lutheran High students, a Color Guard and 21-gun salute by the VFW, featured a touching video playing a song called "Goodbye, Goodbye," which was based on Bruce Canny's poem and performed by David Nass, two RLHS class of 1965 alumni who were instrumental in planning and creating the Veterans Project.
“The veterans’ organizations have embraced this program and their partnership with the school is exciting, yet humbling,” said one of the event's organizers, Krista Long, who is also the development and alumni relations coordinator for RLHS.
The RLHS Veterans Project plaque, which includes the names of alumni who have served the country, was also unveiled during the dedication ceremony and will be added to each year. "We anticipate learning of more alumni who have served in the armed forces, and those names will be added to the plaque annually,” Long said.
Three memorial dedications were also made during the ceremony. The memorials honored RLHS alumni Randal Baganz by son Micah Baganz, who was a former principal of RLHS; alumni Norman W. Wilks by granddaughter Krystle Henningfled, both of whom served in the Army National Guard; and Alan Wellna by sister Susan Filter, who graduated was RLHS in 1979.
“We have been amazed by the responses we have received since announcing this new project,” Dave Burgess, executive director and principal of RLHS, said. “The RLHS Veterans Project will allow us to honor so many men and women who selflessly served our country after graduating from our school.”
"To you who have served in our country's military, today with deep gratitude and great respect, we gather together to say to you, thank you for the opportunity to live in America," Burgess said.
To add a family member or loved one onto RLHS's plaque, send information to Racine Lutheran High School, 251 Luedtke Ave., Racine WI 53405 or email information to klong@RacineLutheran.org. Submissions should include the name of the veteran and year they graduated from RLHS, branch of service, duty station, in the U.S. or abroad, years of service and WIA, KIA, or POW, if applicable.
To purchase a limited copy of a "Good-Bye, Good-Bye" CD for $10, or for more information about RLHS's Veterans Project, go to RacineLutheran.org or call 262-637-6538.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Bill May's organization affiliation. May is the coordinator of Racine's Veteran's Center.