At Pa. college, a place to ponder the sacrifice of veterans
The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)
ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Sandy didn't bring everything to a halt. Over at Northampton Community College on Thursday, they went ahead with the dedication of the new veterans memorial in the Susan K. Kubik Tribute Garden, where trees and benches and stones remembering the school's best and brightest are arranged in a soothing contemplative tableaux.
The only concession they made to the aftermath of the big storm was to move the ceremony to the Lipkin Theater, because it was a bit too raw and muddy in the garden.
But it was moving enough indoors, with the Air Force Junior ROTC Color Guard from Allentown's Dieruff High School presenting the flag and a Marine reservist, Sgt. Carl Rice, singing the national anthem in a deep, seasoned voice that sounded years older than he looked.
A picture of the memorial loomed on a screen behind the stage as Ashley Leeper and JenniLynn Hanitsch, members of the school's Band of Brothers veterans club, remembered the day in 2009 they dreamed up the idea for it. They were at a send-off for an Afghanistan-bound club mate and decided NCC ought to have a marker to honor not just students who serve, but all veterans.
"We spent all summer designing it and coming up with plans for fundraisers," said Leeper, an Army reservist since 2006.
It was an ideal project for the five-year-old club, which raises money for soldiers in war zones and for various home front causes.
"We're not an ordinary school club that does bake sales now and again," Hanitsch said. "We erect monuments."
This particular monument, called Tribute to the Troops, is a huge slab of slanted stone surmounted by a sculpture by Baltimore artist Richard Rist called "Fallen Soldier": a helmet atop an M-16 rifle and a pair of combat boots.
It isn't finished. The club is continuing to raise money to add benches and trees to the small plaza surrounding the boulder, which was excavated from another section of the Bethlehem Township campus. Eventually, five granite columns will be erected, paying tribute to each branch of the military.
"This tribute is a tribute that will last forever," Hanitsch said. "Let it be the most beautiful place in our area to honor the waving red, white and blue."
After the ceremony, some of the veterans in attendance walked over to the site. Among them was Frank Buchvalt, the school's recently retired construction manager who oversaw the project.
He spent a year in Vietnam with the Army — 1969-70 — and began attending NCC a couple of years after coming home.
"We were not embraced," he said, remembering the cold-shoulder reaction veterans received from a nation that had torn itself apart over Vietnam. "I'm glad to see society has changed, that colleges have changed, and are embracing the veterans who are coming back. … They have so much to give."
For information on contributing to Tribute to the Troops, contact Diana Holva at firstname.lastname@example.org or Sharon Zondag at email@example.com.