West Perry High School is home to the Veterans Memorial Grove, which features memorials to World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the military actions in Mogadishu. It is the only school in the United States that has a monument for each of these major conflicts. The monuments were a result of community and student participation and were conducted as cross-curriculum projects involving History, Art, English, and Music in their design, construction, and dedication. Each of these projects were directed by Alan Hench, the art teacher for the school.
These monuments aren't just a tribute to the past, however, they also serve as a teaching tool for the history and art curriculums. Three of the four monuments stand in front of the school to remind the students of the sacrifices that have been made in the past by members of our armed forces. These three monuments also contain time capsules to preseve the past for future generations.
World War II Memorial
This monument began as a suggestion from former Principal James Zimmerman. The project was overseen by the World War II Commemorative Committee and is officially recognized by the US Department of Defense. The monument is a sculpture of a flag-draped cross with the American Eagle perched on one side mounted on a large boulder with a dedication plaque. The plaque reads "A grateful nation remembers."
The school solicited suggestions from the students and selected a design submitted by Melissa Palm. The students conducted their own fundraising for the project and its construction involved over 200 students. Various school activites such as the Student Senate, History Club, and Art Department were also involved. The sculpting and casting was done at the school by the West Perry students under the direction and supervision of James Victor, a professional sculptor. The monument was dedicated on November 9, 1995 and attended by then-Governor Tom Ridge, who also spoke at the event.
The monument also contains a time capsule with a WWII ration book from Perry County, sand from Iwo Jima, a WWII era newspaper, and various military patches from the time. The capsule is scheduled to be opened 50 years from the monument's dedication date.
Korean War Monument
This monument was also designed and built by West Perry students. The monument is a granite slab with a relief sculpture of a Korean battlefield with flags of the United States, South Korea, and the United Nations flying overhead. At the bottom is a crushed bugle which signifies defeat of the enemy. In the past, bugles were used by the enemy to signal charges. Mr. Dan Mets, a local Korean War veteran remarked at how the scene evoked memories of the North Korean battlefront as it looked through binoculars. Each side of the monument contains the names of the thirteen Perry County residents who died during the conflict.
The monument was designed by Sarah Wheatley, another West Perry student. Sculptor James Victor also assisted with this project. The bronze portion of the monument was cast by Laran Foundry in Lancaster,PA.
West Perry High School was included in the Community Partners Program, a Korean War 50th anniversary commemoration by the US Defense Department. The monument was dedicated in a grand ceremony attended by 500 community members including many of the surviving family members of those listed on the memorial. Ten of these family members assisted in the unveiling of the monument.
Vietnam War Monument
The Vietnam monument contains etched scenes from the conflict, including jungle warfare, river patrols, and the air war. This monument is made of black India Granite, the same material as the National Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. Even the scene of troops leaving the jungle is similar to the sculture at the national site. The monument also features a map of Vietnam with stars marking the location where each of the eleven Perry County residents were killed. The monument is flanked by bevels with the names of all the county residents who participated in the war. The words "Welcome Home" are engraved above the scenes, giving these veterans the welcome many were denied at the time of their homecoming.
The monument was dedicated in a solemn ceremony on a rainy day, which, in the opinions of those attending, seemed to fit the occaision. Five hundred people turned out for the ceremony despite the adverse weather including state Representative Mark Keller, who also presented medals to the 200 Vietnam veterans who attended. Relatives of the 13 named on the monument assisted in the unveiling.
Veterans Memorial Grove & Mogadishu Monument
In the school's back yard, 43 new trees have been planted in a 6 acre area. It was designed as a peaceful spot to reflect on the sacrifices of the more than 43 million veterans who have served the nation since 1776.
The Mogadishu Memorial stands within this grove and is comprised of two large stones, each bearing a bronze plaque. One lists the names of the 19 men killed in the battle in 1993. The other placque bears the Ranger's Creed, since all those killed were US Army Rangers. One of these is Randall Shugart, a posthumous Medal of Honor recipient whose family still lives in Perry County. The battle is recalled in the movie "Black Hawk Down." The monument was unveiled by the parents of two of those killed.
Directions to West Perry High School
The school is located in Elliottsburg, PA in Perry County.
From Harrisburg: take route 322 toward Lewistown. Take the Newport exit and turn left off the ramp. At the stop sign in Newport turn left (route 34) and follow route 34 into New Bloomfield. Go straight through the square in New Bloomfield (route 274) and drive approximately 6 miles. The high school will be on your right. Approximately 45 minutes travel time in normal traffic.
From the west shore: take route 114 to the stop sign at Wertzville road. Turn left and travel the Wertzville road bearing right to Sterrets Gap. At the top of Sterrets Gap take route 34 north. Travel route 34 to the junction of route 850 and turn left on route 850. Travel route 850 to the stop sign at Alinda and turn right onto route 74. Be careful--this is a winding road! Travel route 74 to the stop sign and turn right on route 274. The high school will be on your left soon after turning. Approximately 45 minutes travel time in normal traffic.
From Carlisle: take route 34 north out of Carlisle to the top of Sterrets Gap. Travel route 34 to the junction of route 850 and turn left on route 850. Travel route 850 to the stop sign at Alinda and turn right onto route 74. Be careful--this is a winding road! Travel route 74 to the stop sign and turn right on route 274. The high school will be on your left soon after turning. Approximately 30 minutes travel time in normal traffic.
From the north (Williamsport, Sunbury): take routes 11-15 south. Pick up routes 22-322 toward Lewistown. Take the Newport exit and turn left off the ramp. Cross the iron bridge into Newport. Drive thru the square and turn left on Third Street, following the detour signs to route 34. Follow route 34 into New Bloomfield. Go through the square in New Bloomfield (route 274) and drive approximately 6 miles. The high school will be on your right. Approximately 45 minutes travel time in normal traffic.