By Bill Toscano
Air Force Col. Jeffrey McEachron stood in front of the entire Granville High School student body and recalled what happened the first time his father Robert saw him and other youngsters running through the World War II memorial trees behind the high school.
“My dad grabbed me and said, ‘Do you know what these trees are for? When you come here you remember this, each stands for a Granville kid who made the ultimate sacrifice.’ After that, we would always remember to pay respect when we were there. We’d run to practice, but we’d walk through those trees.”
McEachron was in Granville his week for his father’s funeral. When he found out the high school was holding a Constitution Day assembly as part of the dedication of the plaque naming the 32 local residents killed in World War II, the same men the trees were planted for, he sought out the opportunity to speak.
The packed auditorium hung on his booming voice as he talked about his pride in his hometown.
Later in the ceremony, social studies teacher Christine Cook reminded the students that World War II came out of a vindictive treaty and the inability to forgive the issues of World War I.
“I came to Granville 31 years ago, and I remember when Kathy Hayward first showed me the Avenue of Honor,” she said of the path among the trees. “Sadly, some of our local soldiers paid the ultimate price, but Granville never forgets those who served.”
John Norton, a World War II veteran who knew all the local men killed in the war, also reminded the students of a monument in the front of the school which lists all Granville’s veterans of World War II.
“There are more than 700 names there from World War II. Go out and visit the monument, and you’ll find some relatives there,” he said. “They all gave up two to four years of their lives in defense of the country.”
Norton, a frequent speaker at veterans’ events at the school, complimented the students. “It’s nice to know we have such fine students attending our school,” he said. “You are always very attentive when we come.”
Later, when the ceremony moved outside, Superintendent Mark Bessen spoke directly to the small group of seniors who had come out with him.
“I look at you seniors today, and these guys were just like you,” he said. “If you think that the graduating classes back there were about 70 students, so you are looking at 10 years of graduating classes.”
Lila Myer, a teacher’s assistant at the school and a long-time supporter of veterans causes, was the guiding force behind the monument. Now she has a new project on the horizon.
“The next thing we need to do is put a sign in front of each tree with the name of the person it is planted in memory of,” she said. “We cannot forget them.”