For many who went to war and didn’t come back, high school had been their last stop before the military – four years of fun and learning. It’s fitting, then, that some schools put up permanent reminders of their sacrifice.
Great Valley High School in Malvern, Pennsylvania, will be doing just that, erecting a veterans memorial on campus. One of the young men it will honor is my cousin Nicholas Venditti, Class of ’66, the subject of my book Tragedy at Chu Lai https://tragedyatchulai.com/
Three other alumni will be honored. All of them – like Nicky – were killed in the Vietnam War. They were Robert Nixon and Gary Jefferis, both from the Class of ’65, and Lewis Valentine, Class of ’67. There were no alumni deaths from World Wars I and II and the Korean War because the school was new, opening in 1962. No graduates were found to have died in the U.S. wars that followed Vietnam.
Until now, the high school only had an undated plaque bearing the names of Jefferis, Nixon, Valentine and Venditti. It was presented by the Interact Club, a student organization with ties to the Kiwanis Club. While working on my book in the 1990s, I found the plaque in a glass display case in the school’s main hallway.
The new veterans memorial is the work of the Alumni Association and the Foundation at Great Valley, along with the school district. A Go Fund Me campaign,
https://www.gofundme.com/GVVeteransmemorial, has raised $10,000 for the project. A dedication will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, November 11, Veterans Day, on the school grounds.
Why is this memorial important?
Each family, each community that loses a loved one in a war is changed forever. That is proof that Nicky Venditti’s life mattered, Robert Nixon’s life mattered, Gary Jefferis’ life mattered, Lewis Valentine’s life mattered.
The Great Valley Veterans Memorial will help remind us of that.