Vietnam Comes to Saxonburg

The greatest honor accorded to me in high school was the opportunity to write and read a memorial to the Knoch High Knights who had died in service to our nation in Vietnam.  Knoch, having been founded in 1958, did not have a legacy as did many of the established high schools in our area, of veterans from 1918 or 1944.  Our first losses came from the war that was still very much raging as we sat in our classrooms in the 1960’s.
I did not have a personal relationship with any of the young men we honored.  They were classes ahead of me.  I did remember some of their faces from walking our very crowded halls together.
I searched my trove of historical and literary favorites to make an attempt to do them honor.  I ended my short memorial with these words: “It has been called the ultimate sacrifice, the high tide of devotion, the last full measure.  Let us honor them and remember their sacrifices.”
We had a simple dedication ceremony that consisted of my brief reading over the PA system to students still sitting in their classrooms.  There was a flag lowering in the front of the school.  There was a moment of silence.  It was short and probably a bit clumsy but it was sincere.  A simple engraved plaque bearing their names was mounted in the hall.  This was Saxonburg’s contribution to a war with dubious purpose but with all too real consequences.  I remember my notice of the space left on the plaque, just in case additional names needed to be added later.
Many years later, I drove by the school and noticed a Sunday church service was being held in the auditorium.  Without permission and violating the posted notices not to enter the halls, I entered, walked, and reminisced.  I looked for the plaque but could see it nowhere.  I could see athletic and academic awards prominently on display but I wondered if the sacrifices of these Knoch Knights had been paved over in more recent years when the war had been discredited.  Perhaps folks had simply moved on.  It is my hope that the distant fire that was brought home every night our television news was not completely forgotten.  Let us remember their sacrifices.

 

Update: This story was written in 2011.  In August 2018 Knoch alumni were offered a tour of the school.  Fellow 1968 graduate and Vietnam veteran, David Bogan, noticed the plaque was in fact on the display case by the auditorium. He shared this with me. I was pleased to learn that my disappointment described in the above story was not founded. I will keep the story here, however, as homage to the service of these Knoch knights. Let us remember their sacrifices.