COVINGTON — Covington schools looked to the past on Thursday afternoon to honor and remember their military history, particularly the role that past Covington residents played in World War I and how local servicemen helped liberate a German-occupied Belgium.
The district held a special assembly with students in honor of a new World War I monument coming to Highland Cemetery in Covington thanks to fundraising efforts by Jay Wackler and David Frank, both of whom are Covington High School alumni. They raised around $30,000 for the monument.
Wackler previously said they began to raise funds for the Covington Centennial World War I Monument after they became inspired to preserve a plaque on the former Covington Armory. The plaque honored seven people from the Covington area who were killed in World War I. It was installed on the armory in the early 1900s, and now it will become a part of the new World War I monument. The armory is now home to TUNS Air Conditioning and Furnaces, owned by Gary Korte, who donated the plaque to them.
Covington Superintendent Gene Gooding welcomed community members and students to the event on Thursday, saying that they were there to recognize and honor veterans who had served to protect and maintain the freedoms that citizens are able to enjoy today.
High school students each spoke about World War I as well as Covington’s role and military heroes in the war.
CHS senior Elizabeth Schafer talked briefly about World War I, which took place between July 1914 and November 1918, culminating in the Treaty of Versailles, signed in June 1919.
“It engulfed the world … in chaos and misery,” Schafer said.
She talked about how American military involvement in the war helped turn the tide of the war. She explained that the U.S. got involved after continued atrocities occurred during the war and also due to German’s unrestricted submarine warfare, which included attacking merchant and passenger ships.
“American military (involvement) was the beginning of the end of the war,” Schafer said.
She said that five million Americans served in World War I, of whom approximately 116,708 died during the war and approximately 204,000 were wounded.
Other CHS students also talked about how approximately 300 people from Covington and the surrounding area served in World War I, including over 20 CHS graduates from between 1902 and 1917, the majority of whom served in the Army. They explained Covington area servicemen fighting with the U.S. Army’s 148th Infantry Regiment also helped to liberate Belgium, which had been occupied by Germany. Two Covington men who served in World War I received the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism during combat with the U.S. Army’s 148th Infantry Regiment, including Major William L. Marlin and First Sergeant Luther J. Langston.
“Both of these soldiers were true American heroes,” CHS sophomore Sydney Hogue said.
CHS freshman Holly Beasley talked about “the blessing of their sacrifices,” emphasizing the importance of freedom and patriotism.
“All of us in this school are lucky to be Americans,” Beasley said.
Karen Purke, executive director of the Miami Valley Veterans Museum, also spoke and directed her comments to the students, saying that past Covington residents who served in World War I “were men that were your age, some younger, some older.” She added, “Honoring veterans is important.”
Frank and Wackler also spoke at the end of the ceremony, saying they should have pride in the village of Covington and reemphasizing how veterans and their service “deserve to be remembered.”
Frank, a 1967 Covington High School graduate, served as a Judge Advocate in the U.S. Air Force and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel. Frank also previously practiced law in Columbus and currently lives in Powell. Frank is also writing a book on the military history of Covington.
Wackler, a 1961 Covington High School graduate, served as a Sergeant with the U.S. Marine Corps in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Now a Troy resident, Wackler is retired from the computer industry and has also worked with the Covington Chamber of Commerce and Covington Alumni Foundation.
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