Tuesday, November 6, 2007

War memorial shows fallen soldiers are more than just names


In the main hallway at Santa Barbara High School, black and white yearbook pictures of 70 young Dons who died fighting as soldiers in the United States military line the walls.
Quintin Rizor, class of 1932, was killed in World War II and wanted to attend Santa Barbara State College, while Donald Graney, class of 1950, played on the school’s baseball and tennis teams and wanted to become a pharmacist, but was killed in the Vietnam War.

The visual memorial was created by Bill Dodson, a history teacher at the school and chairman of the Social Studies Department, who wanted to show students that the 120 names listed on the school’s war memorial rock near the gymnasium are much more than just names.
“Those names represent students here at SBHS, who had hopes and dreams for the future,” a sign in the hallway written by Dodson says. “Students who walked these halls, sat in these classes, played sports on these fields. Students just like you.”
Dodson said he was spurred into creating the memorial a few years ago after overhearing a student say, “So what? They are just names on a rock.”
After hearing the student’s words, Dodson, whose father and brother served in the military, said he was initially angered, but realized that to many students, the harsh realities associated with many of this country’s wars are far removed from the psyche of most students.
“Part of me was very upset,” Dodson said. “And then I though [about] the Vietnam War. I could be teaching the Romans or Greeks. It’s that far away in history for them.”
In order to bring it closer, Dodson said he attempted to give the names on the plaque a face and a story.
But in doing so, the tragic stories of the fallen soldiers moved Dodson to the point of frustration.
“It was frustrating seeing all those hopes and dreams and knowing life turned out a lot different for them,” he said.
This is the second year the photographs have been displayed and Dodson plans to continue to compile names and pictures as long as he’s teaching at the school. He said he hangs the pictures the Monday before Veterans Day and they stay on display for about two weeks.
In order to discover the story behind the names, Dodson said he began searching through the 130-year-old school’s yearbooks, all of which are kept in the library. But within those yearbooks, Dodson said he could only find pictures for 70 of the fallen soldiers, which is only about half of the total number of former Santa Barbara High students who have died in battle.
He said one possible reason for not being able to locate more pictures is because some may have dropped out of school to join the military.
Dodson said he also checked several ware memorial web sites to find out more about each soldier and hopes to increase the number of pictures and bios each year.
In World War II alone, 1,751 Dons fought and 63 died. Dodson found pictures for 54 of those 63 soldiers.
The only woman in the memorial is Betty Stine, class of 1939, who was killed in World War II and was a nationally ranked “horseman.” The biography says Stine wanted to become an airline stewardess and was well known for her “warm, ever-ready smile and sparkling personality.”
Dodson said the memorial has been well received by students and hasn’t had any negative response from anyone. He said in the mornings and and late afternoons, the most touching part of the memorial is seeing a wandering student standing in front of the pictures, examining the biographies.
Michelle Villa and Angelica Rios, both seniors at the school, said they appreciate the memorial.
“It’s interesting to see the people,” Villa said, adding that oftentimes students don’t realize the seriousness of a situation when names are merely engraved on a plaque.
At 11:30 a.m. this Friday, the school will have its annual Veterans Day vigil around the rock. Assistant Principal David Hodges said Sammy Campa, a former student who fought in the current War in Iraq will address the crowd.
“We like to honor those names at least annually,” Hodges said.
Hodges said he is happy Dodson dedicated so much effort to creating the memorial.
“We’re very thankful that he did it,” he said. “It gives additional meaning to the holiday.”
Dodson said he isn’t sure how many former Santa Barbara High students are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, but knows none of their names have appeared on the wall. In fact the last soldier from Santa Barbara High to die was in 1981. Dodson said that death had something to do with an accident at a domestic military base.
Looking at the memorial as the sun shown through the school’s west facing windows, Dodson verbalized what the memorial means to him.
“I think it really brings them back to life, for lack of a better word,” he said.

A complete list of the soldiers who Dodson couldn't find pictures or biographies for is listed below. Dodson said anyone with information about any of the soldiers can contact him by email at: wdodson@sbsdk12.org

World War I
Albert Strafford
David Barry
Harold Webster
George Sangster

World War II

Stewart Fullerton
Bernard Soto
Samuel Yee
Henry Cherry
James Hagan
James Simpson
Lloyd Beaudette
W.M. Harshbarger
Charles Beaucond
Edward Salzman
George Steinhauer
Jack Dykes
Robert Renald
George Ritchie
Augustus Griggs
W. Franklin Baker
Augustine Cruz
Phillip Garcia
Charles Rowan
Robert Twitchell
Lloyd Weber
Eswin House Jr.
Arthur Molenhauer
Martin Romero
John Kriger
Keith Webster
Jessie Vasquez

Korean War

Richard McCoy
Robert Wensley
Victor Corona
Gregorio Garnica
Joseph Uribe

Vietnam War

Roy Johnson
Greg Carr
Dennis Cook
Larry Lara
Gary Breck

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