LAKEVIEW — “All gave some — some gave all.”
These words, etched deep into the polished wood of the veterans memorial at Lakeview High School, tell the story of the hundreds of young men and women who over the years have left this small, quintessentially American hometown to serve with the U.S. military at locations around the world. Among those who served during wartime, too many never made it home again.
That sacrifice should not go unremarked or unremembered, says Jim Wood, former commander of Lakeview’s Hough-Pontius VFW Post. Several years ago, Wood conceived of an idea to ensure the names of Lakeview students who served are remembered — a permanent memorial display at the high school’s front entrance.
Wood found a supporter for the idea in then-Lakeview High School shop teacher Jim Burdo, who agreed the memorial would be a welcome addition to the school. Better still, Burdo’s shop class had the equipment and know-how to build the memorial’s basic structure, an impressive wood-and-glass case in which hundreds of brass name-plaques would eventually be installed.
“Jim (Burdo) and I talked to a lot of vets about the idea,” Wood says. “They all thought it was a great idea. Jim made the case with his students. The intent was to have the names of former Lakeview students who are veterans up there, everyone from World War One right up through the present.”
Though crafting the cabinet was an impressive undertaking, uncovering the names of the hundreds of Lakeview service members proved to be the real job, one that has taken years. Records of former Lakeview students who served in the military — particularly those from the World War I and Korea eras — are spotty and difficult to come by. For five years, Wood researched what records he could find and collected information from area residents who remembered a relative or friend who served. Wood placed flyers at area businesses asking that anyone with information about a former or current service member contact him.
At the start of the project, Wood estimated there might eventually be as many as 350 names included. As of this past April, that number had almost doubled.
“It went way over our original guess,” Wood says. “The numbers keep going up. Nobody expected there would be this many names and nobody had any records.”
The name plaques, which cost $4 each to produce, are crafted by Terry Helms of Graphics Specialties in Mecosta. According to Helms, new names are still coming in at the rate of about five or 10 per week.
“Whenever we get 10 or so names, I stop by the school and we add them to the wall,” Helms says. “It’s starting to slow down a little now, which is a good thing; we only have room for maybe a few hundred more. World War II is getting pretty crowded and Korea is getting that way too. The Iraq era and beyond is also getting crowded. There are a lot of names in there that I recognize; a lot of kids have been joining the services.”
The cost of the project is covered entirely through donations. Parker Hannifin Corp. in Lakeview pledged $1,000 with a promise to give still more should the need arise. Likewise, the VFW and other organizations have agreed to pay for some of the name tags.
“It’s a lot more names than we originally thought,” Wood says. “The numbers keep getting bigger. It’s cost more, but nobody’s squawked about it.”
Public support for the project and the sentiment behind it is evinced in the flowers added to the display by students and other visitors in honor of those listed there. The yellow roses placed against the panes of glass stand mute tribute to the young men and women currently serving in the military, and to the hopes of those left behind who await their safe return.