Crestwood schools to rededicate fieldhouse for Vietnam vets

Crestwood Local Schools is set to rededicate its fieldhouse April 6 as a memorial to students who sacrificed their lives in the Vietnam War.

Former Crestwood students Kenneth R. Keefer, who died June 7, 1967; Denver J. Berkheimer, who died May 22, 1968; John E. Lorence, who died June 8, 1969; and Robert W. Zoller II, who died July 2, 1970, will all be memorialized with a plaque affixed to the south side of the fieldhouse.

Their names appear below the words, “Dedicated to our Crestwood students who were killed while serving their country during the Vietnam War.”

Crestwood’s Memorial Fieldhouse was originally dedicated in honor of the four soldiers on Sept. 16, 1972, but the soldiers’ names were nowhere to be seen. Crestwood High School graduate Tim Benner noticed the absence and stepped forward with a plan last fall.

He and Crestwood schools Superintendent Dave Toth had a plaque made that they will affix to the fieldhouse during the rededication ceremony. Working with Athletic Director Troy Spiker, they ensured a large audience would see the plaque for the first time by setting the ceremony for Crestwood’s all-day Don Faix Invitational track and field event.

Toth will lead the Pledge of Allegiance and deliver a short address, and Mantua’s American Legion Post 193 will perform a volley rifle salute.

Also on hand will be the Palmyra Historical Society, one of few area organizations authorized to award commemorative pins to Vietnam-era vets. As the 50th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War approaches, historical society President Della Evans is determined to tell the vets they are remembered and appreciated.

A 2008 National Defense Authorization Act authorized the secretary of defense to conduct a program to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, and specifically to thank and honor veterans who served from Nov. 1, 1955, to May 15, 1975, regardless of where they served. Then President Barack Obama issued a proclamation on May 25, 2012, designating May 28, 2012, through Nov. 11, 2025, as the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.

Evans expects to pin 50 to 75 vets Saturday. Recipients don’t need to have served in the war; they could have fulfilled their duty anywhere, even in the reserves.

Each veteran will receive a pin featuring a bald eagle superimposed on an American flag. The eagle faces six stars, one for each of the Vietnam War allies: the United States, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea and Thailand.

Turning the pin over, one sees the message “A Grateful Nation Thanks and Honors You.”

Since the pin is to be worn over the recipient’s heart, that message is especially meaningful, Evans said.

Also on the back of the pin are the words “USA Vietnam War Commemoration” to remind each veteran that the pins reflect the Pentagon’s desire to recognize and thank them.

The rededication ceremony will begin at about 11:30 a.m., between the preliminary and final events of the district’s Don Faix Invitational. The field house is located at 10923 Main St. in Mantua.

“I have all respect for the vets and their families, for the men and women who serve overseas. It’s beyond sacrifice. That’s all I can say,” Toth said.

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Wendy DiAlesandro is a former Record Publishing Co. reporter and contributing writer for The Portager.