Whitehall-Yearling High School unveiled a bronze ram statue in its library on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, with a ceremony to honor members of the military and a community of pride.
The large statue depicting two rams -- the school's mascot is a ram -- was donated by Col. Scott Harrison (1978 graduate) in honor of students, teachers, staff members and administrators who have served in the U.S. armed forces. It was constructed in India over the summer, traveled through China in the fall and landed in New Jersey last month before making its way to its new home in Whitehall last week.
Amid banners and flags, balloons and taps, the statue was dedicated as part of Harrison's continuing pledge to "pay it forward."
Pointing to the deaths of former Whitehall-Yearling principal Ed Houston and athletics director Pat McMillin, Harrison said, he was unaware both had served in Korea.
"I came through here, and I didn't know they were veterans," Harrison said. "And having put 36 years in the military and familiar with my own classmates who had gone through and joined, I just thought it was time that we recognized the students and faculty who had come through Whitehall and served in the military."
The sculpture is inside the new Judyth Dobbert-Meloy Media Center.
With Whitehall's strong history and relationship with the military, he said, the statue should be dedicated to local veterans.
"Once you take the uniform off, you are invisible," Harrison said. "So I thought it was time to recognize those who have served."
Amid applause, Harrison then told another story.
"I also owed a mentor of mine," he told Monday's standing-room-only crowd, "a mentor I had in college at Ohio State University."
After enrolling in an ROTC course as a noncommissioned officer, Harrison was dismissed by the instructor who said he wasn't officer material, he said.
"So I bumped into a man I first met when I was 12 years old," Harrison said. "Lt. Cmdr. Wayne Hayes. Most people call him Woody."
The famous Buckeyes football coach saw something the ROTC instructor had not and called Harrison to his office every Thursday to discuss naval warfare and military history.
"He gave me some advice that has been very relevant," Harrison said. "He said, 'I'll always have critics. I'll always have cheerleaders. But this doesn't alleviate my responsibility to make decisions and take action based upon my goals.'"
Harrison said he heeded Hayes' advice and went on to become an officer, enjoying a long, successful military career.
He told the students in attendance that the hopes the Ram statue would inspire them to follow their dreams and become another Whitehall success.
Also on hand for the dedication were Whitehall Mayor Kim Maggard, Whitehall Board of Education President Walter Armes, students and administrators, numerous graduates now serving in the military, a number of veterans and Whitehall-Yearling's symphonic choir.
Studetns Marie Christian and Chance James-McDuffie read poems to honor veterans.
Superintendent Brian Hamler, a fellow classmate of Harrison, could not attend.