LAKEVIEW — Veterans of the armed services who once attended Lakeview Public Schools hold a special place in the hearts of members of the Hough-Pontius VFW post. It doesn’t matter if the service man or woman in your life passed through the schools for one semester of Kindergarten or throughout an entire academic career, the VFW wants to hear from you.
A longtime member of Lakeview’s VFW, Jim Wood has made it his mission to honor every vet who ever attended Lakeview schools.
A few years ago, Wood came up with the idea of creating a lasting memorial at Lakeview High School that contained a complete list of area vets. Gleaning the names from a variety of sources, Wood originally thought he might locate as many as 350 vets to fill the open slots on the memorial.
As of Monday, that number stands at 859. And climbing.
“A fellow just stopped by today and gave me two more names,” Wood said. “I get a lot of them that way.”
Wood also finds the names of former vets in old newspaper accounts, Centennial magazine — printed during the year of Lakeview’s centennial celebration — and other sources.
As word of mouth regarding the memorial spread, Wood found himself inundated with names, most submitted by friends and relatives of current or former service personnel.
“It’s quite exciting,” Wood said. “It’s been a lot of fun and I’ve heard from a lot of people. When we had the last VFW brat sale, I had people stop by with names. Or they stop by the school to see (the memorial) and tell me they’ve seen their brother’s name or their grandfather’s name. They’re so pleased this is happening.”
Former LHS shop teacher Jim Burdo’s class is responsible for creating the cabinet that houses the memorial. Standing floor to ceiling just inside the school’s front entrance, the cabinet offers an impressive home for the individually engraved name plates.
The school and VFW both helped cover the cost of the name plates, but in recent months, Parker-Hannifin Brass Works in Lakeview has taken over the ongoing costs of the project.
“It only costs $4 per name to make the name plates,” Wood said. “It’s not huge, but still its nice that someone’s covering the cost.”
Wood said he doesn’t really see an end in sight for the project, since new Lakeview students join the military each year.
“The numbers for WWII and Vietnam vets will level out,” he said. “They’re already beginning to slow down.”
Among the newest additions to the memorial is Dustin Miller, a Lakeview grad serving in Korea as an air traffic controller with the Air Force. Miller’s family was also recently honored by the post with a Blue Star Service Banner.
“Dustin is a 2003 graduate of Lakeview High School,” Wood said. “He has a wife, Vantha, and a 5-year-old daughter, Alyssa, awaiting him in San Diego.”
Wood added he and other members of the post will continue to search for new names to add to the memorial. Any former Lakeview student who served in the military is eligible for inclusion.
“It just keeps growing,” Wood said. “If you attended, even in third or fourth grade and then moved away, it still counts.”