Tuesday morning’s annual Veterans Day program at Wawasee High School was a mixture of the student body being challenged, strong emotions and a former U.S. Navy officer sharing some of his service memories.
Pat Park, a retired Navy lieutenant who served in the military for 25 years, was the guest speaker. But before he stepped to the microphone, one WHS student challenged her fellow students and another shared emotional memories of a father killed while serving in the Army National Guard.
Student Kaylee Wallace challenged the student body to take the Veterans Day program seriously. Referring back to a school lockdown Sept. 12, she said she heard no thanks coming from students to the emergency workers who responded that day and she felt that was wrong. “They were there with their guns drawn and ready to protect and defend us,” she said.
Wallace said, “It starts with me and I will say thank you to the veterans for what they have done for us.”
Student Alex Fiscus then shared memories of her father Michael Fiscus, an officer in the Army National Guard who was killed in Afghanistan when the vehicle he was riding in crossed over a land mine. Fiscus said most of the memories she now has of her father are in photos because his death occurred when she was a small child nearly 10 years ago. She recalled a family vacation trip to Disney in 2005 as being the last time the family was together on vacation.
Park was introduced by his daughter, Anna Park, a WHS student. He brought a “shadow box” filled with different items related to his military service and explained what significance each item has to him.
“Everything that makes me a veteran is in this box,” he said. He asked the question, “what does it mean to be a veteran?” His simple definition, added to later, is a veteran “is someone who has done something.”
He noted veterans are usually people who don’t look for thanks or honor. “They just did their job,” he said.
The shadow box he had sitting on a table next to him represents hundreds of people and many memories, he said. The plaques represent different missions needing to be accomplished and the different roles to play in the military.
Ribbons and medals are nice honors, but he humbly noted “I didn’t do it all myself,” giving credit to those around him for support and encouragement.
A small gold cross is also in the box and though it signifies those who serve in the Navy chaplain corps and though Park was not a chaplain, it still represents something to him. He said the cross represents true value and worth because without the sacrifice of Christ and God’s help, he wouldn’t have been able to do what he did.
Before the program closed, WHS Principal Mike Schmidt read a prayer Gen. Douglas MacArthur often prayed for his own son. And members of the Syracuse American Legion Post did a gun salute just outside the building while taps was played.