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A tribute to fallen Eagles

By MIKE HALLIDAY

The Mirror

The students sitting in the bleachers of Federal Way High School’s gymnasium were about the same age as the young men whose names were on the granite memorial.

All of them, those on the granite slab and those sitting, were Eagles. The differences were the ones on the monument had walked the school’s halls 35 years to more than 60 years earlier and gave their lives serving in the military.

On a drizzly Wednesday morning the students and some of the families of the fallen honored and remembered them.

The monument memorialized the men as the Fallen Eagles. “In Memory of Their Sacrifice” was carved into the top of the memorial.

The idea and work behind the 13 names on the black granite marker came from Steve Chae, a senior in the school’s JR Reserve Officer Training Corp (JRROTC) 52nd Eagle Squadron.

He and other members spent months going through old newspaper clippings, high school transcripts, yearbooks and U.S. military records tracking down the names, photos and information about the men who died serving in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

Seven died while serving during the Second World War, one died in Korea and eight died in Vietnam. Three names were added before the ceremony but after the monument was carved because family members learned of the JRROTC squadron’s efforts and came forward. Chae said the names would be added.

While he couldn’t find Eagles who died serving since Vietnam there is room on the memorial.

The men honored Wednesday served in the Army, Air Force or Marines. Some graduated from high school while others left to join the military. Most were killed in combat while a few died from disease or accidents.

Like the students watching and listening from the bleachers, the men who died serving their country had similar interests. They played sports, enjoyed being with friends, were in the drama club and some were at the top academically. Frank Kieszling, who died in World War II, wrote in the yearbook that his favorite quote was, “Silence is golden”. The yearbook noted he also played the trumpet.

Other memories were tinged with sorrow.

Steve Kinghammer wrote his mother while in Vietnam asking her to send cookies. He died the same day when a mine exploded.

“This is just wonderful,” said Lindy Boehm, niece of Michael Linderman who died in Vietnam. It was especially moving for her because her father, Linderman’s brother, died a week earlier.

“He would have been really proud of this,” Boehm said of her father.

Leon Kravik’s three sisters, Elva Deacy, Fern Hansen and Edwina Bjornsson, attended the ceremony. He was the second youngest, after Elva and before Fern. Edwina was the youngest.

The sisters, all Federal Way High School alumni, said it was a great ceremony for their brother and were happy the students attended.

“Leon has been gone so long it was nice to have him remembered,” Bjornsson said.

Researching the names took Chae and five other cadets three months to complete. Lt. Col. Long, the squadron’s commander, recommend Chae take on the project at the start of the school year.

For Chae, the project was alternately rewarding and sad.

“I’d be happy I found the man,” Chae said. But also sad knowing he died serving his country and its citizens.

The memorial will be placed outside the school near the cafeteria and the main entrance.

The JRROTC 52nd Eagle Squadron will have a car wash to pay for the granite memorial from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. this Sunday at the Shell gas station at 29625 Pacific Highway South.

Staff writer Mike Halliday: 925-5565, mhalliday@fedwaymirror.com

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