Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Lee, Taylor, Thorstad, Butz, Winey: CHS memorial honors and remembers

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By KEVIN NEVERS

It's a civic lesson we learn as school children: Freedom isn't free, but always purchased dearly.

Not quite a cliche 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.

Boatswain Airman 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.”

Master of 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.”

 

Posted 5/30/2017

 
 
 
 

 

 

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