BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Wearing Air National Guard uniforms and mun-ching on donuts, 2019 graduates Ben Peterson and Colton Eckert surveyed the crowd gathered in the Anthony Wayne High School media center on November 10.
It was the first time since graduation that Eckert, who ran cross country and track, had been back at the high school, and his return was as one of 29 active-duty, retired or reserve servicemembers whose names were added to the Wall of Honor.
The wall, located in the athletic hallway next to the high school gym, was unveiled on May 1, 2019 and now features 691 names of those who have served in every branch of the military, said assistant principal Stephanie Buckenmeyer. That includes the newest branch, Space Force, in which 2011 graduate Clay Nordhaus serves as a captain.
Jason Nowicki, a 2007 graduate who joined the Army National Guard at age 22 already had his name on the wall, but came to support his fellow veterans and active-duty personnel. As a recruiter, Nowicki has an opportunity to see honor walls in many districts, but none are as comprehensive as the one at Anthony Wayne, he said. That’s in part due to the policy of allowing any graduate of AWHS or Monclova, Waterville or Whitehouse schools before the 1951 district consolidation, to be listed on the board.
James Page, a 1963 graduate, decided to put his name on the board this year. He served in the Army from 1968 to 1970 and stayed on in the Army Reserve for another four years. A staff sergeant, he was stationed in Germany with military intelligence and the armored cavalry.
Donald Matuszak, a 2009 graduate, learned welding at Penta Career Center and signed with the Navy before graduation.
“The drive they give you helps in work,” Matuszak said of his experience in the Navy. He now works as a service engineer, traveling around the country, but in the Navy he traveled to Portugal, Turkey, Italy, Greece and the United Arab Emirates. Matuszak said he’s grateful for an opportunity to see other veterans – and to be added to the wall.
Courtney (Roberts) Gilts, a 2003 graduate who works as a school counselor at Maumee High School, enlisted in the Army National Guard at age 34.
“I was looking for a challenge. I wanted to be part of something bigger than me,” said Gilts, who works as an HR specialist with the guard one weekend a month and two weeks every summer.
As she surveyed the wall, Gilts spoke with Nowicki about the difference that the Army National Guard has made in their lives.
“It’s done so much for me. It’s changed my life,” Nowicki said. “It opened up doors for me. I like giving back and helping the community.”
Like Nowicki and Gilts, Peterson and Eckert are stationed at the 180th Fighter Wing.
“A lot of people from Anthony Wayne are at the 180th,” said Eckert, who along with Peterson serves as a nondestructive inspection specialist at the 180th Fighter Wing. It’s a job that requires inspecting planes for imperfections in systems and equipment.
Both enrolled in college courses after high school but wanted to look at other options.
“I joined to give me time to think about what I want to do and, if I do go, they’ll pay for college,” said Peterson, whose brother Braden, a 2017 graduate, is in the Air National Guard. “There are a lot of different opportunities and I’m going to apply to work fulltime.”
Several other veterans came to the school on November 10 to honor their peers and to speak in classrooms about their experiences.
Jerry Ochs, a 1986 graduate, served in the Army for seven years and the Air National Guard for 11 years. He now works as a clinical engineer.
Travis Grime, a 1994 graduate, served in the Navy for seven years and the Marine Corps for nine years. He works as a heavy equipment operator, which is what he did while in the Marines. Grime recognized Terry Walters’ Marine insignia and welcomed him. Walters, a former infantryman, spoke to students about his experiences.
Mike Walbolt, a 1969 graduate, served in the Army from 1971 to 1973. He comes to a lot of events at the high school. His brother, Jerry, and cousin Frank both have their names on the wall as well.
Rodger Green, who served in the Air Force from 1962 to1966, retired after working as a custodian at Monclova Primary School for 11 years. He recently returned from Washington, D.C., where he visited the Vietnam Veterans Mem-orial and other memorials as one of 87 veterans on an Honor Flight of Northwest Ohio trip.
“It was an opportunity of a lifetime,” he said.
The 27 graduates and one employee of AWLS added to the wall this year include:
Dean Anderson, 1982, Air Force; Wyatt Asher, 2020, Army; Jeff Bretzloff, 1988, Marines; Jerry Cook, 1992, Air Force; Colton Eckert, 2019, Air Force; Courtney Gilts, 2003, Army; Jasen Jazwiecki, 2000, Air Force; Casper Karamol, 1960, Navy; Ed Karamol, 1950, Navy; Frank Karamol, 1992, Navy; George Karamol, 1996, Marines; Robert Karamol, 1950, Air Force; Ronald Kinkaid, 1951, Navy; Donald Matuszak, 2009, Navy; Daniel Meyer, 2001, Air Force; Jake Nekoranec, employee, Navy; David Neumeyer, 1967, Army; Edward Neumeyer, 1966; Army; James Page Jr., 1963, Army; Chris Rilling, 1995, Air Force; George Roush, 2019, Air Force; Traci Suchocki, 1977, Air Force; Sean Stroshine, 2000, Marines; Zack Switzer, 2005, Marines; Loi Tu, 2021, Marines; Brett Warner, 1985, Air Force; Jack Wells, 1988, Army; and Kaleb Wymer, 2021, Navy.
For information on adding a name to the wall, visit www.anthonywayneschools.org.