Honoring our Excelsior alumni who lost their lives in the service of their country has been the elusive goal of many pilots, including your website manager. The City of Norwalk fulfilled its duty by placing plaques bearing the names of Norwalk's fallen on the City Hall. But because Excelsior was only one of other high schools in existence in the city at that time, we had no way of knowing who among them were our own. The plaques are well made and I photographed all of them in 2009 for our website's future use.
Americans behaved poorly towards Viet Nam veterans. Ignoring the fact that the British torched the White House in the War of 1812, many believed that the Viet Nam conflict was the first war America had lost, and that our troops had somehow failed us. For others the war was an unnecessary and self engrandizing campaign - anyone and anything associated with it left a bad taste. Too many of us failed to separate the war from the warrior. To the deprivation and horrors of armed conflict, we added chagrin and neglect. Belatedly, we have learned to honor returning military personnel.
Excelsior High School alumni leaders have worked to somehow set things right. Hilda Cardiel Ambriz, Class of 1963, our all class picnic leader, made the journey from Ontario to Norwalk on August 21, 2010, where the traveling Viet Nam Wall was on display. There she laid a memorial wreath on behalf of Excelsior alumni. This gesture inspired others. Marie Ellison Jackson, Class of 1960, who is an active member of the picnic committee, culled through 52 names to identify Excelsior's own. Her thorough research produced a list of eight men. Alumni from the classes of 1960 through 1970 complemented the project by identifying two more and providing their class affiliations. The completeness of the list is limited to our best knowledge. Names will be added as family and friends make them available to us.
Permanency is best achieved when etched in stone or cast in metal. And the names of our fallen classmates deserve no less. The plaques on the wall of Norwalk's City Hall are appropriate and dignified, which is why their images serve to present the names of our classmates on our website. Some plaques are not photographs, but were drawn. Obviously, the class designations were produced in an image program. Sammy Hartzel's family moved out of state soon after he graduated and he then joined the military, which is why he has no plaque on the city hall. William Maury Hearn has his first and middle names switched on official records, and his city hall plaque reads Maury William Hearn. Donald Mac Edward's plaque was partially in shadow when I took the photographs, and that too got a makeover.
Lest we stray too far into a virtual world, we should remind ourselves that each name represents pain, lost hopes, grief and all those evils that war bestows. To that end, I have listed our fallen classmates in the order in which they perished.
Grant Hovey, Class of 1956
December 4, 2010