They will not be forgotten


Caleb Louks and Ben Sanders

“I was basically invisible.” Vietnam Veteran Bob Prins proudly served for two years in the Army. Upon his return to the States, he was shocked to find himself and his friends in the military widely ignored, even spat on. 

   Now, we honor them. At WO, all students and teachers take time out of their day on November 11 to do so. Their service does not go unrecognized.   

   Assistant Principal Ryan Oshnock ran into a problem planning WO’s annual Veteran’s Day celebration because of the pandemic. The assembly in the gymnasium simply wasn’t possible. 

   Oshnock described the importance of the day. “To me, one of the most important parts about Veteran’s Day is the civilians that take a step back and really put themselves in the shoes of a veteran.” He also mentioned how important it was for WO to honor the veterans, even with the pandemic. So, Oshnock and WO got to work.

   Oshnock met with WO administrators and began to brainstorm. “The administrators were like ‘how do we still celebrate the veterans of our local community in a meaningful way?’ Then, Mr. Manning, the principal at the North, asked, ‘Hey, what about a parade?’” 

   West Ottawa’s plan to honor veterans during COVID were well underway.

   WOBN aired a video this morning, honoring previous WO students who had fallen for their country. Oshnock said, “I think the biggest takeaway for me is how well our students engage in the assembly, and every year, the stories of those who have fallen are nearly identical, but the intent at which students listen, and the community at which they listen to their story, I think that’s always been something that’s stuck in the back of my head. Like, wow this is pretty special.”

   Oshnock said civilians need to step back occasionally and remember all of the people who have served our country.  “Today is the day that we can recognize them.”

   On the morning of Veteran’s Day, veterans in their cars lined the back of West Ottawa High School. They paraded around the campus as students lined the route waving flags and holding up signs saying simply “RESPECT” and “Thank You Veterans.” Prins was among those in the parade. 

   Prins has gone to Veteran’s Day assembly at WO twice before, but they were nothing compared to this year. Despite the parade’s differences from a normal assembly, Prins said that “This feels good now. For many years, no one even knew I served in the military except family and close friends. I never told anybody. It was a secret.” 

   Five years ago, Prins went to Hamilton High School to talk to a few classes about his experiences. “The last class, my granddaughter sat in, and she came up to me after that, gave me a big hug, and said ‘thanks grandpa, for serving and telling your story.’ And I said ‘you know what, you’re the only one that’s heard it.’” Prins mentioned that he intends to write down his story, especially because of the support we give Vietnam Veterans now that they never had.

   Prins is not alone. Veterans all over the country share in their own unique story. Veteran’s Day plays an integral role in remembering the sacrifices and struggles that so many endured. Their stories will not be forgotten.