yet for most of us not much more than an abstraction, whose truth we would
scarcely dream of gainsaying but rarely have occasion to feel in our hearts.
Until one of our
own in uniform pays that price in blood, and his family in abiding sorrow.
On June 2, 2016,
Cadet Mitchell A. Winey (CHS 2014, U.S. Army) died in a training accident at
Fort Hood, Texas--having just completed his second year at the U.S. Military
Academy at West Point--one of nine who drowned when their transport
overturned in a flash flood. Duneland grieved and grieves still, that this
young man whose brief life was a celebration of life, who so profoundly
blessed others’ lives in the sheer living of his own, should have perished,
and perished in this way.
On Saturday the new
Chesterton High School War Memorial was dedicated to Winey’s memory, erected
at the football and soccer stadium and prominently sited just south of the
home-team stands. Its inscription, engraved below an American flag and the
insignia of the five U.S. Armed Forces: “In Lasting Memory Of Those Who
Attended Duneland Area Schools And Made The Ultimate Sacrifice In The
Defense Of This Great Nation.”
Winey served as
senior class president at CHS, skippered the soccer team, belonged to
National Honor Society: great achievements all. But it was Winey’s vitality,
his genuineness, the easy way he had with everyone, which endeared him to
the world--the sort of fellow who could walk into a pub in Ireland of an
evening and leave at closing with 40 new Facebook friends. As U.S. Sen. Joe
Donnelly, D-Ind., who personally nominated Winey to the U.S. Military
Academy, has said, “I will never make a better nomination or an easier one.”
Yet Winey isn’t the
only CHS graduate martyred to our freedom, only the most recent. Also
honored on Saturday were four others denied their full measure that we might
aspire to our own.
Spc. James A. Butz,
U.S. Army (CHS 2009), Sept. 28, 2011, Mirmandab, Afghanistan.
S/Sgt. Thomas P.
Thorstad, U.S. Marine Corps (CHS 1974), Oct. 23, 1983, Beirut, Lebanon.
Spc. Mark R.
Taylor, U.S. Army (CHS 1968), June 2, 1971, Thua Thien, Republic of Vietnam.
William Lee, U.S. Navy (CHS 1965), July 19, 1967, aboard the USS
Forrestal, Gulf of Tonkin.
Dedicating the War
Memorial was retired Duneland Schools administrator Tim McGinty, himself a
veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. “I understand that no monument, no speech,
no parade, or memorial dedication can adequately give justice toward the
sacrifice that our veterans who died in service of our country deserve,”
McGinty said. “But it is only through symbols such as this that we keep
alive the memories of our heroes. We must never allow the memory of those
who gave all to their country to fade. Each succeeding generation must be
reminded that in order for our nation to remain the greatest nation on
earth, a price must be paid. The veterans we honor today paid that price for
our rights and freedoms in full.”
Of those in
attendance, McGinty asked this in particular: that they spread word of the
War Memorial to their family, friends, and neighbors, that the monument may
become a Duneland landmark. “This monument has appropriately been built near
our high school,” he said. “What great lessons our children can learn by
their parents’ bringing them here to witness this monument and hear their
loved ones explain the sacrifice these servicemen made and the reasons
behind their choice to serve this nation.”
For Winey’s father,
Tim Winey, the War Memorial is “something that’s long overdue.” As he told
the Chesterton Tribune after the ceremony, “Duneland is a community
and a family. Mitch was the catalyst who set this in motion and for me and
my family the monument is very personal. But I grew up with Tom Thorstad. We
played together. And this monument is personal to Tom’s family. I went to
school with Jim Butz’s father. And this monument is personal to the Butzes.
But in the end it’s personal to all of us in this community. We’re all
connected. We’re all family. And the people who bring their children to
football and soccer games here now have the opportunity to explain to them
what makes this all, all of it, possible.”
CHS Principal Jeff
Van Drie, for his part, expressed his deep gratitude to Edmonds & Evans
Funeral Home, Jennifer Lowery, and Royko Concrete for their generous support
of the monument. But Van Drie noted as well that donations for the War
Memorial “came from all over the country.”
To the inscription
itself the War Memorial Committee gave the most thought, with counsel from
Westchester Township History Museum Curator Serena Sutliff. At issue: many
more than five CHS graduates have fallen in the service of this country, as
have others who attended CHS but never graduated, and those who lived in
what we now call Duneland before there even was a CHS. “It’s almost
impossible to determine all of the fallen who lived and went to school in
this community,” Van Drie said. Hence the inclusive wording of the
inscription: “In Lasting Memory Of Those Who Attended Duneland Area Schools
And Made The Ultimate Sacrifice In The Defense Of This Great Nation.”
ceremonies on Saturday was Eagle Scout candidate JD Corey from Troop 928,
which also provided a color guard. Singing the National Anthem--in a moving,
magnificent a capella--was CHS student Wyatt Lee.
And Pastor Cathy
Allison of Chesterton First United Methodist Church offered the invocation:
“Lord, we gather together with hearts full of love and pride, and some with
sorrow and sadness, for those who gave their lives, who made the ultimate
sacrifice, serving our country, a country of freedom. May You be ever
present in our hearts as we remember them especially on this date, at this
time. May this memorial be a reminder that our freedom isn’t free, that it
comes with a price.”