Ridgewood building war memorial garden
James Shukas is one of the veterans to be honored on a Vietnam War Memorial is being proposed for a courtyard at Ridgewood H.S.. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 18, 2012 8:31AM
All gave some. Some gave all. Ridgewood High School now aims to make those legacies last.
The Norridge school is in the process of creating its first permanent memorial to honor alumni who served in the U.S. military.
“We had the opportunity to do some new ground and landscape work,” said Superintendent Robert Lupo. “We’re hoping to bring some of the outside world into the experience of students.”
Lupo enlisted the help of village historian Myron Petrakis, who oversees the veteran’s museum at 7774 W. Irving Park Road, to convert the campus’ unused courtyard into a memorial garden.
Together they are planning a kick-off event open to the public at 7 p.m. May 22 at the high school gym, in which the high school’s band and a Chicago pipes and drums group are scheduled to perform. The theme, Petrakis said, is based on World War I poem “In Flanders Fields.”
Statue and design plans are still being finalized but the memorial will include pathways with bricks for dedication to raise funds for its creation, Lupo said.
The memorial will pay special tribute to five soldiers from Norridge who were killed in action: Marine Cpl. Donald Warren Bollman, Marine Pfc. Neil Joseph Cacciottolo, Marine Pfc. Ronald Chester Rogowski, Army Specialist Four James Chris Shukas, and Army Specialist Four Kenneth Wayne Wells.
Each of the men, who served in Vietnam, were between 20 and 23-years-old when they died in action.
As students pass through the courtyard on their way to classes, the memorial would serve as a reminder of the sacrifices a sliver of the population sometimes makes, Lupo said.
“It’s hard to believe we’ve been living in war for 10 years,” he said. “It doesn’t touch most of us like it did in the Vietnam (War) era.”
He added: “It’s important for people to understand. I think we have to bring some of that back.”
For Harold Bollman, 77, of Mount Prospect, the memories of a war that ended more than three decades ago have barely faded.
Bollman, the oldest of seven children, was in his 30s and married with kids when American troops were in Southeast Asia.
It was an unpopular war, he said, and one that created a lot of hard feelings.
“Nobody liked the war,” Bollman said. “Everybody thought we shouldn’t be over there.”
His three brothers — Norman, Donald, and Jimmy — had just graduated from Ridgewood High School at the time. Each a year apart in age, they enlisted for duty: Donald with the Marines and Norman and Jimmy with the Army. All were sent overseas to Vietnam even though there “was never supposed to be any more than one child (from a family) at battle,” Bollman said.
In spring 1967 Donald was in Japan and was planning to return to the U.S. on break to marry his girlfriend.
Then a large offensive was launched. He got called back to the war’s frontlines.
At the same time Jimmy had suffered wounds from a bamboo panji trap. Norman was hurt from an attack on the Air Force base at Da Nang.
At 22-years-old, Donald had sustained a fatal bullet wound to the head. His older and younger brothers served as honor guards as his body was flown home.
Harold Bollman was at his parents’ house when two Marines came to the door to deliver the news about Donald’s death. His mother instantly fainted, he said, and three months later she passed away.
“It hit my mother so hard,” Bollman said.
Today none of the Bollman family reside in Norridge; the house they grew up in is no longer there either.
Yet the siblings meet together at least once a year for the village’s Memorial Day services to honor Donald. Harold Bollman still gets choked up when listening to and recounting his brothers’ decorated service, particularly that of Donald’s.
“It seems like a long time ago and the date proves it,” Bollman said. “We were very proud of them after all these years.”
As for the new school memorial, he said: “It makes me happy that somebody still cares.”