Before going on to serve their country in the military, they walked the halls of Valley High School.
A new memorial standing in front of the New Kensington-Arnold high school will recognize and honor their service and sacrifice — in not only the past, but also the future.
The Veterans of Valley High Memorial is expected to be located where the Ten Commandments monument once stood.
The religious monument was removed following a legal challenge and now stands along Freeport Road at Mary Queen of Apostles School in New Kensington. Its former space in front of the high school is now unused.
Those working to build the memorial plan to have it ready for a dedication on Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11, said Lt. Col. Wayne Sodowsky, who is retired from the Army and is the senior Army instructor for the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at Valley High.
While there are memorials and monuments in local communities to those who served in World War II and earlier, Sodowsky said there are not many specifically for those who have served since World War II in New Kensington or Arnold.
It is expected to be not only a memorial but also an outdoor classroom for use by the district and other organizations and individuals.
The project came about after John Tamiggi, executive director of the Allegheny Valley Habitat for Humanity, asked district officials if they’d be interested in doing something for veterans, school board member Kathy Clarke said.
“We said, ‘Yes, we would,’ ” she said.
“It’s a great community service project,” she said. “It will be nice to honor the veterans in our school district.”
Tamiggi said Habitat will provide resources, tools and volunteers to help with the project, including access to an indoor construction training workshop.
Students in the JROTC program are designing the memorial. The design has not been finalized.
The memorial will include bricks engraved with the names of those who attended Valley High School since its opening in 1956 and went into military service, whether they were drafted or did so voluntarily, Sodowsky said.
“Whether they fought in combat or not does not matter,” he said.
Seeking veterans’ names
Those working on the memorial are gathering the names and soliciting nominations, he said.
They’ve found there is no single source for the names, and they don’t know how many there might be.
“We are slowly gathering that,” he said. “There’s no existing database. Once they graduate, no one tracks them.”
To make it a “living memorial” with more relevance for the modern age, Sodowsky said it will include codes that could be scanned with smartphones to bring up video interviews with veterans made by students in the high school’s video production and technology class.
Art students will paint murals at the memorial that will be updated annually, Sodowsky said.
The New Kensington Garden Club has offered to help with landscaping around the memorial, which Sodowsky said will include red poppies that will bloom around Memorial Day.
Clark said the group was only partly successful in getting grants to pay for the memorial.
That’s when Siemens stepped in with a $6,000 contribution, which is covering about half of the cost.
About 500 people work at the company’s Large Drives Applications factory in New Kensington.
In addition to its monetary contribution, the company is planning to have employees mentor students to help build the memorial and participate in a speaker series.
Tony Perry, Siemens’ financial controller and head of the company’s veterans network employee resource group, said the company learned of the memorial effort when he asked Habitat for Humanity about helping in the community.
“The interest was definitely there to help build this wall in our community,” he said.
As the memorial’s anchor sponsor, Siemens’ name is expected to be incorporated into it.
With more names being added each year, the JROTC will sponsor an annual race, “Run for a Better Tomorrow,” to raise money for more engraved paving stones and maintenance of the memorial.