By Michele Lutes
A blank concrete wall at Saugus High School, standing 15 feet by 16 feet, has now turned into a way for Saugus Centurions to honor alumni serving in the United States armed forces. All five military seals land in the bottom left corner with a soldier saluting above, a bald eagle, the sign of freedom, stands beside the soldier and in-between a painted portrait of “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima.”
Below the painted services stands an area covered in plaques. Three large plaques carrying the names of three fallen veterans; SGT John Michael Conant of the US Army, LCPL Richard “Ricky” P. Slocum of the US Marines and PFC Robby Wilson of the US Army. 240 smaller plaques land below covered with student names who have graduated Saugus High School and moved on to serve their country. All these things come together to create the “Wall of Honor.”
Still in progress to the left of the wall will stand a “Courtyard of Courage” with trees, plants, and terf.
Saugus Principal Bill Bolde and Saugus senior Steven Plante have created something not only memorable for those who serve and their families, but as well as the 1,500 students that walk by the “Wall of Honor” and “Courtyard of Courage” at Saugus every day.
When the reveal of the wall happened Veterans day this year, the city gathered bringing together military members, as well as their families.
“There are many students who graduate from this campus, who are choosing a different calling; theirs is a call to action. They have made a decision to go out and defend the freedoms that we enjoy, but often unfortunately take for granted,” said Bill Bolde, Saugus High School principal.
This idea did not come together over night, it took time, energy and money. The school is still raising funds to help pay for the wall, as well to finish the “Courtyard of Courage.” Saugus is estimating about $15,000 to have the mural installed, order plaques, and purchase new trees, potted plants, artificial turf and benches for the courtyard.
To kick off the fundraising Plante formed a Go Fund Me page, only making about $1000, Bolde and Plante collaborated using connections they had in and out of the valley to get donations. Most donations came from Saugus families with sons or daughters in the military, but Plante informed us Coca Cola had donated to the project at one point in the fundraising process.
“Last spring Steven came into my office and said ‘Mr.Bolde I want you to know that I have this desire to do something to give a lasting impression here at Saugus. I would love to do something people might stand up and give notice to.’ He didn’t know what it would be, so he asked for ideas,” said Bolde about student Plante.
As Plante joined Bolde at the ceremony this past Veteran’s Day, Bolde recognized Plante’s dreams of being accepted into the United States Naval Academy.
“Steven took the baton and over the course of the past six months he has gone on to raise money, helped put on this event, he has done everything including helping set up the chairs today,” Bolde said at the reveal of the “Wall of Honor.”
As Bolde concluded his thoughts, Plante took center stage at the ceremony, as emotions rolled through the crowd as well as Plante himself, he tried not to cry as he took the microphone.
“A teacher of mine once told me, ‘Greatness is positive impact on others’ and I have really taken that to heart lately, and I think it is important for all of us to influence the people around us,” said Plante.
Going into my senior year, I decided I needed to make the best out of every moment, so as I leave this campus I hope everyone remembers me as someone who constantly wants to give, lives for others and is selfless.”
Selfless is just the word used to describe Plante. A plaque on the bottom right corner of the wall reads his name to honor his efforts to create this “Wall of Honor.”
“I didn’t know that my name was going to be anywhere near it. It is amazing that my name will forever will be a small part of that project,” said Plante.
Plante gave “sneak peek” of an upcoming project that his friend will be spearheading to contribute to the “Courtyard of Courage.” On one of the side walls they plan to add Saugus alumni that have gone on to become first responders to recognize an even larger group of students.
This has also inspired a group of West Ranch High School students to peruse a similar idea to start honoring veterans on their campus as well.
Honoring veterans in the schools around our valley doesn’t stop at the high school level. Our very own campus has a veteran’s center to help out the reservist and retired military members on our campus.
From schools to city wide, Santa Clarita’s appreciation and honor is growing for our veterans. This year in 2016 two new projects have gone into full effect. Including Veterans Historical Plaza in Newhall, recently added a wall of bricks, being reveled this past Veterans Day. Along with Veteran banners on many streets in SCV of active duty members.