More than 35 years have passed since James Scroggins, Ronald Shipley and Michael Scott died in Vietnam. But their former classmates at Mulberry Grove High School have not forgotten about them, or about their service to this country.
On Sunday afternoon, a large crowd – including family members of those three men – was on hand in front of the high school to dedicate a monument erected in their memory.
“We are hear to dedicate this memorial in their honor and to assure their families that they have not been forgotten and never will be forgotten,” said Jerry Short, one of four members of a committee that worked to create the monument.
Short was joined on the committee by Dan Willis, Jim Blankenship and Dan Steiner.
“Mulberry Grove High School, this community and three families, in particular, paid a very heavy price during the Vietnam War,” Short said.
“We are not here today to glorify war in any way, but simply to pay tribute to our three friends and classmates who made the ultimate sacrifice,” Short said.
Scott, a 1966 graduate of MGHS, was killed on March 13, 1968, about 4 months after his tour of duty began and less than six weeks before his 20th birthday.
Shipley, a 1967 MGHS graduate, was killed by an explosive device on Aug. 16, 1969, less than a month after he turned 21 and before the birth of his son, Tim.
Scroggins, a 1965 graduate of MGHS, was killed in a helicopter crash on Feb. 23, 1973, during his second tour of duty. He was killed a month after a cease-fire agreement was signed, and just a month before most U.S. troops were pulled out of Vietnam.
Short said the memorial monument represents “the true meaning of sacrifice, selfless devotion and love of our beloved country.”
The completion of the monument project, he said, “feels to me like we are finally bringing these three men home.
“The vast majority of those who served in Vietnam did so with dignity and honor. We did our jobs to the best of our ability, under some very challenging conditions, and, having known all three of these men personally, I have no doubt that they would have been among those who could have been depended on to carry their fair share of the load, to help others who might be struggling in one way or another and could be steady and dependable in any situation,” Short said.
The keynote speaker at Sunday’s dedication ceremony was retired Maj. Gen. Wayne Erck, who talked about how the Vietnam War was very unpopular in this country.
“Times in our country were turbulent, issues were left unsettled and unresolved,” he said.
“Many lives were lost, which shattered the families of the deceased forever, and there were no parades or celebrations to honor these brave soldiers, sailors airmen, Marines or Coast Guard men and women who served for our country.
“Against this backdrop, three young Americans who graduated from Mulberry Grove High School proudly served their country,” Erck said.
“Honoring them with this special memorial in no way lessens the importance of other young men and women who have been injured or died for their country in other wars or conflicts.
“We honor these brave soldiers today because we, as a town of Mulberry Grove, Ill., want this marker to proudly proclaim for generations to come that we still love and miss them, that we respect the sacrifices that they made for the United States of America, that we mourn for the full and rich lives that they could have lived, that we will be forever grateful for the time that we had with them on this Earth, and that we have never, ever forgotten them as we have moved forward with our lives,” Erck said.
“While what we feel is painful, the memory of these three distinguished soldiers reminds us of the happy times that we spent with them while they were here on this Earth,” he said.
“We are all better human beings for knowing them for the short time they were with us,” Erck said.
Short also announced that as a part of the memorial project, the memorial committee established a scholarship program. The first recipient of a scholarship, Carrie Elam, a 2008 graduate of MGHS, delivered a short address during the program.