Pequannock Township High School Joins in on Mission Honor Wall Project

 

By Alexander Rivero, Staff Writer

 

We hear it over and over again in interviews with soldiers. We see it in their biographies, in the footage of their first comments upon returning home from long overseas deployments. We can almost feel it on their expressions as they disembark ships and planes, putting boot to native soil for the first time in months: “If you only knew what it meant to us”, say our veterans, “to have your support, to know that you think of us and remember us when we’re out there.”  

Pequannock hears them too. The township has planned its Mission Honor Wall just outside Pequannock Township High School (PTHS) for the express purpose of honoring members of the high school across the generations who have gone on to serve in our armed forces, many of which never returned home. 

Mission Honor—the idea for the project of a commemorative monument for our veterans—originated at Butler High School, and it is spreading to other schools in the area. The end goal in all of this is to increase the national appreciation for the sacrifices the members of the armed forces offer every day by identifying our heroes on monuments or displays in schools. The Honor Wall at Pequannock follows the model of placing photographs of service members past and present in uniform with his/her name and other relevant details. For inclusion into the monument, the veteran does not need to have completed graduation from PTHS, but need only to have attended. 

Richard Hayzler, principal of PTHS, is proud of the work his students have put into the monument. 

“This is just a great opportunity for PTHS and everyone involved to honor all those men and women who served that came through our school,” he says by phone. 

Hayzler and his staff, who in October of 2021 coordinated with the West Point jump team to parachute into the 50-yard line at half time with the game ball during a Pequannock High football game, put the township’s STEM academy to work on creating a design for the monument. The design completed, the teams of students and supervising staffers sent it over to school architects and engineers, while giving the green light to fund raising efforts to finance it. When it comes to the major steps needed to finalize and sustain the Honor Wall, however, Principal Hayzler is clear.

“The food truck fundraisers and donations are crucial and necessary, and we depend on them, and the Board of Education will help hopefully, but in the end of all of this I want the students to take full ownership of this important legacy project. I want them to have that recognition, but to have earned it, and to consider the military as a possible next step in their own lives, as well as in the lives of the students that come up after them.”

The principal admits the challenge of locating all the local veterans that at one point or another were students at the high school. The willingness to help, however, has never been on the short end. Volunteers have abounded from day one, many of whom, like Sharon Austin (PTHS Class of ’67), have gone the extra distance to make sure every eligible veteran is accounted for in the monument. 

“We had just had our 50th high school reunion, and I noticed on Facebook that they were going to build one of those walls for our school too,” says Austin. “I had plenty of information on our veterans, and put together a PowerPoint presentation of as many names as I could find of veterans that came through our school.” Austin recounts receiving photograph after photograph of servicemen from across the branches, and running each of them into the PowerPoint slides. Her own class of 1967 graduated about 200 students and produced a whopping 26 veterans. This was during the days approaching America’s peak involvement in the Vietnam War. 

As for the models for the Honor Wall, they are, says Austin, “so impressive that they should do what is intended, which is to honor the veterans and inspire future generations. That was my reaction to them when I saw them.”

As for expectations for alumni who come back to see the monument, Principal Hayzler says he wishes for all Pequannock alums to feel welcomed back at the school. “We want them all to come back at some point and in some capacity, whether they are active or former military members or not. There’s a great deal they can offer our students in terms of life perspective and advice, and as long as they’re interested, we’d be very happy to have them.” 

If you know of anyone who should be included on the Mission Honor Wall, please have them send a digital uniformed photograph to smulligan333@icloud.com

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.