Gathered in Waite High School’s recently refurbished and stunningly beautiful theater, over 300 community members, students, veterans and active servicemen and women took part in Waite’s 100th annual Memorial Day Program on Thursday, May 21.
Jason Kendall, senior class president and one of the event's primary organizers, discussed what the program means to him.
“This really helps give me a perspective and connection to everyone who has gone before me,” Mr. Kendall said. “You get a real sense of pride in this nation. And the fact that the memorial is in its 100th year connects you to everyone else.”
Attendees were treated to a moving and very well executed program. The Waite High School Band, led by Andrew Fritz and Francisco Ramon, and the Waite High School Combined Choir, led by Lisa Morgan, provided a beautiful backdrop for the emotional and touching ceremony.
As veterans, surviving family members and active-duty armed service members were honored, the band and choir performed a stirring rendition of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”. As the choir soared to its exalted crescendo, images and tributes to those who have served to protect our freedom flashed across the screen and received a round of applause from all in attendance.
After members of the different branches of military were duly recognized, the audience learned the stories of TPS alumni who had served, the history of special service branches, and heard a moving reading of the Gettysburg Address by Robert Nesper, a Waite staff member and a retired United States Coast Guard lieutenant. He was accompanied by the lead violinist of the Waite band.
Robin McLoughlin, primary faculty organizer of the event, said the day had special significance for her.
“This means so much to me personally to be able to honor in some small way the memory and active struggle of those men and women who fight for our freedoms,” Mrs. McLoughlin said. “We are honored to receive a certificate by the Toledo City Council and a Congressional recognition for our effort. It means so much that everyone can come together and pay tribute to the most important people in our lives.”
The event culminated with a lovely ceremony in the Memorial Garden on Waite’s front lawn.
On the walk outside, everyone was greeted by a monument to the first installment of this 100-year celebration.
“One hundred years ago, two sycamores were planted for the first two Waite alumni who died in World War I,” Mrs. McLoughlin said. “These serve as a visible reminder and connection to our roots.”
This year completes the third phase of the construction of the Waite Memorial Garden, started in 2001. Three new granite markers were unveiled that honor those who lost their lives during the September 11th, 2001 attacks. There was also a newly installed monument dedicated to the memory of everyone who made the 'ultimate sacrifice' for our freedoms.
As a 21 gun salute sounded, families of the dearly departed placed wreaths, bouquets and other contributions at the memorial, including a wreath placed by the widow of former mayor and Marine D. Michael Collins at a newly-erected tribute in his honor.
While the smoke lingered in the air and patriotic sentiments ran high, Mr. Kendall knew it was just the start of another year of planning.
“I’ve been involved in this great tradition for all four years while I’ve been at Waite,” Mr. Kendall said. “And the planning process for next year’s program starts the day after this program. We constantly strive to find the best way we can honor these amazing and selfless individuals.”
Posted on May 22, 2015