Veterans Day is a national day set aside on November 11 of each year to honor all who have served and are still serving our nation in time of peace as well as war. Few if any high schools keep records of all of their graduates who are veterans or are currently serving in the United States Armed Forces. If the school has any record at all, it is typically a list of graduates who gave their lives in defense of freedom.
Lee High School is one such school that honors those that gave everything in time of war. This fall, the school will hold its usual assembly on November 11 to bring attention to those who have and continue to serve. At the same time, the school will honor a former Lee High School student who was killed in action during World War II but whose fate was only recently learned because his family had moved to Byron Center to farm after his sophomore year. Howard Van Solkema will be the twenty-eighth Lee High School student listed on a beautiful memorial that adorns the main hallway upon entering the school.
The memorial was constructed in 2004 with support from local Chapter 2, Disabled American Veterans. It is likely the most comprehensive memorial to those whose young lives were cut short in the theaters of World War II as well as the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Twenty-four Lee Rebels lost their lives in World War II followed by two during the Korean War and two in Vietnam.
When you consider the small size of Lee High School, with graduating classes at the time only numbering around 40 or 50, for a community this size to lose twenty-four of its young men had to be difficult, not only for their classmates but parents, families and friends. While Veterans Day is usually set aside to remember living veterans and those still serving, we want to take a moment to recognize and honor Van Solkema as we add him to our memorial. He was forgotten for too long but now his name will rightfully be enshrined along with his classmates and fellow heroes.
See also This is Rebel Country: Some Gave All