Community celebrates start of memorial project
By Jeff Harrison
A group of Midwest City High School alumni last Thursday broke ground on a memorial to honor 22 classmates that were killed in action during the Vietnam War.
The outdoor memorial is being built on the south side of the high school, near the museum. Construction started this week and the project is expected to be completed for Veterans Day on Nov. 11.
Members of the MCHS Veterans Memorial Committee were joined by school district officials and city leaders for the groundbreaking ceremony.
Bob Osmond, committee chair, said the concept originated at the 50th reunion of the Class of 1964. That MCHS class of 525 graduates included about 100 veterans. Thirty-five served in Vietnam and four never returned home.
“We’ve been looking forward to this day for years now,” Osmond said. “… It’s a happy day for all of us and we’re planning on having it dedicated on Veterans Day.”
Mid-Del Superintendent Rick Cobb said the memorial is a great way to honor those who gave their lives in service of the country.
“I think it’s great to honor our graduates who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and the committee has really put in a lot of work designing the memorial, raising funds for it, working with the city and working with us,” he said. “It’s going to be a great project and a great addition to the campus,”
When completed, a black granite “Wall of Honor,” will display the names and pictures of the 22 MCHS students who died in the Vietnam War, and serve as the centerpiece for the circular memorial plaza. It will include flag poles, battlefield crosses, bench seating and brick pavers honoring all veterans. The memorial will also honor alumni who died in the Oklahoma City bombing and in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The concept was designed by Tony Callaway, a MCHS alumni and Vietnam veteran. He said the memorial is similar to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC, but offers more personal information about each veteran.
“Instead of just the names like on the Vietnam Memorial, we are making it more personalized with pictures and information about them,” he said.
Callaway said the scope of the project expanded with support from the school district.
“Initially we were going to do the memorial itself, but as we developed the panels and Wall of Honor, we developed it as a plaza because we want it to be an integral part of the school and the community,” Callaway said.
Organizers have raised funds from alumni, corporations, foundations, and the general public to complete the $250,000 project. The committee raised money for the project by selling commemorative challenge coins, pavers and bricks and through donations. That included $90,000 in matching funds from the Midwest City Memorial Hospital Authority grant program. They have also received many in-kind donations.
The project has been endorsed by Mid-Del Schools and non-profit Midwest City High School Museum and History Center on Elm Street, where the outdoor memorial wall will be constructed.
The tree-lined plaza will have flag poles and bench seating and occupy 6,240 square feet. Students will pass through the plaza daily when disembarking from school buses or walking up from the student parking lot.
Killed in action in Vietnam from Midwest City High School with the year of their graduation were Rex B. Freeman, ’53; Allen P. Miller, ’60; Donald L. Bernard, ’63; Edward G. Baker, James L. Eatmon, John K. Johnson, and James “Delton” Moffett, all ’64; Larry L. Riley, Lawrence S. Robbins, and Sammy R. Smith, all ’65; Benjamin F. Bolding, Randell H. Burnsed, Stephen R. Costello, Stephen S. Donohue, Michael R. Finerty, James D. Guffey, and Randall L. McElreath, all ’66; Jerry A. Kiser and Kenneth W. Skinner, both ’67; and Ronald C. High, Albin L. Kendall, and Jimmy D. Sanders, all ’68.
Alumni members of the Vietnam Memorial committee include: Osmond, Keith Simpson, ’62; Dave Herbert and Charles Sharp, ’63; Garry Avery, Tony Callaway, and Chaniece Kennedy Harkey, all ’64; Ralph Woodrum, ’65; David Miles and Linda Stell Smith, both ’66; John Laakman and John Whetsel, both ’67; and Suzi Kaiser Byrne and Walta Rollin, both ’68.