Second ceremony honoring OAHS military vets planned for April 7
● By Steven Hoffman
In November of 2014, a large plaque with the names of approximately 540 U.S. military veterans was unveiled at Oxford Area High School (OAHS), a lasting tribute to the school’s alumni who have served their country.
Now, a second ceremony is being planned that will pay tribute to dozens of military veterans from Oxford. The upcoming ceremony that will take place at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 7.
Kassidy England, a graduate of Oxford Area High School, said that she has already compiled the information of about 90 more veterans since the plaque was first unveiled. England was the driving force behind the effort to establish a way to honor OAHS graduates who have served in the military. She transformed what started out as a project to earn the Girl Scout Gold Award into a much larger initiative, collecting the names of veterans, as well as their year of graduation and branch of military service. She also organized and planned the 2014 ceremony to honor veterans.
According to England, the next group of veterans who are being honored served during a variety of eras―there's a good mix of men and women who served in the military years ago, as well as those who served more recently.
Sometimes, it's the veterans themselves who are contacting England to have their information included on the plaque at OAHS. Other times, it's proud family members who want to see their loved ones get recognized for their service.
Two veterans who are going to be honored at the second ceremony and are really looking forward to the event are William Steele, a U.S. Navy veteran and a member of Oxford Area High School's Class of 1944, and David Williams, a U.S. Air Force veteran, who was a part of Oxford's class of 1949.
England said that it's very rewarding being able to meet and talk to veterans like Steele and Williams.
From the very beginning, England's project has received widespread praise for her efforts to honor veterans.
At the first ceremony, Richard Morton, a U.S. Army veteran who traveled from New Jersey just for the event, called it a great idea.
State Rep. John Lawrence lauded England that day for doing “a truly remarkable job” of bringing “long overdue recognition to veterans who graduated from Oxford High School.”
At the 2014 ceremony that brought a few hundred people together to honor military veterans, England received a proclamation commending her for her work from Geoff Henry, who was Oxford's mayor at the time.
England used social media, emails, and sources at the Oxford Library to collect the names of local veterans. There is no searchable database that would allow someone to identify all local veterans, so England relied on local residents to share with her names of family members and friends who served their country.
Even though she has since graduated from OAHS, England has continued to collect information about veterans so that they, too, can be honored. She enjoys communicating with the veterans or their family members.
“There are people who are so excited to be recognized,” England said.
Since she graduated, she has been helped by the Oxford Parent-Teacher Organization and high school principal James Canaday. Randy Teel, owner of R N J Plaques & Engraving in Oxford and himself a veteran, initially prepared the plaque and the name plates, volunteering much of his time and talents to the project. Teel will be doing the same for the additions to the plaques.
The plaque is prominently displayed outside the doors to the high school’s gym.
With fewer veterans being honored this time around, the April 7 event is expected to be slightly smaller―but certainly no less important.
Speakers are currently being lined up. Light refreshments will also be served during the ceremony.
England said that Megan Walton, the assistant fiscal officer at the Coatesville Veterans Affairs Medical Center, will be available to enroll all veterans for their VA benefits, and to answer any questions that they might have. There will also be a mobile health clinic onsite to provide basic health screenings to all veterans, not just OAHS veterans.
The April 7 ceremony is open to anyone in the community who wants to come out to honor the veterans.
For England, all the work has been worth it because her efforts help to bring recognition to people who really deserve it.
“It’s good to be able to acknowledge the veterans,” England said. “I am so appreciative of the sacrifices that these men and women have made for our country.”
England has set up a Facebook page―OAHS Veterans―to share information about the project.
Anyone who has a friend or loved one who is a military veteran that they would like to have honored can provide the name, branch of military, and year of graduation for inclusion on the plaque by March 17. The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. England can be contacted at email@example.com.