LAKEWOOD — As hundreds gathered at Clover Park High School for the 10th annual Arlington Project display Wednesday, a combined Clover Park School District choir sang the song “Thank You Soldiers,” accompanied by the Clover Park High School band.
The display is open to the public now through Monday, Memorial Day, at Clover Park High School, located at 11023 Gravelly Lake Drive SW in Lakewood.
At the ceremony, Tim Stults, Clover Park High School principal welcomed the crowd of students, parents, community members and dignitaries.
“We are gathered here for a variety of purposes,” he said. “Some of us are here out of a sense of civic duty, because it’s something we should do. Some of us are here because we participated in putting the Arlington display up, or we have done research projects on the causes or nature of war.”
Students and staff worked months to create 7,000 individual markers in the field of honor, or to honor loved ones lost in the line of duty, Stults said.
“Regardless of your individual reasons for gathering here, one thing unites us — it is once again the time to remember and reflect,” he said. “It is the time to remember the sacrifice, the extraordinary cost to individuals and their family, their comrades in arms, friends and their communities.”
Stults pointed to the seemingly endless field of small white marker stakes located across the front and side of the school, each bearing the name of a fallen service member from 2001 and beyond.
The Arlington Project began at Clover Park High in 2008 as a way for students to learn about America’s brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve this country’s freedoms.
Although it’s a far cry from the 400,000 service members buried at Arlington National Cemetery, the markers at Clover Park High School mimic the grave markers at the national site and offer a way for local families of the fallen and students to honor them and learn from history.
During the ceremony, Washington State Rep. Dick Muri, of the 28th District, read the iconic World War I poem, “In Flanders Fields” and spoke of the formation of Camp Lewis 100 years ago during what was then called “the Great War — the war to end all wars.”
“But we know that was not true,” Muri said.
Retired Col. Ian Larson, who retired as garrison commander at JBLM in 1991, spent time after the ceremony walking through the field of markers.
“This is quite impressive,” Larson said. “I was noticing how all the markers stretch on and on. It makes you realize the number of people who died.”
Larson and his friend, retired Col. Paul Knoop, attended the event with several veterans now living at Patriots Landing in DuPont.
Knoop said he was impressed that Clover Park students cared enough to create the Arlington project each year for the past decade.
Many students participated in Wednesday’s ceremony, including John Muna, a freshman at Clover Park High, who is in his first year in the school’s ROTC program.
“It felt really good to be part of this tonight,” Muna said. “It gives the people a chance to honor all the sacrifices of so many Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors and Marines. They gave their lives so we can be free.”