WHS staff honors Veterans

HONORING VETERANS: Josh Budde celebrates his uncle, Navy veteran Chester Booker, for Veterans Day. Booker passed away on Feb. 16, 2022.

Josh Budde

HONORING VETERANS: Josh Budde celebrates his uncle, Navy veteran Chester Booker, for Veterans Day. Booker passed away on Feb. 16, 2022.

In 1954, Congress passed a bill proclaiming Nov. 11 as an annual celebration to honor Veterans that served in the United States Armed Forces. Ever since, individuals have gathered to share stories of the veterans closest to them, and WHS staff and faculty are no different.

In recognition of the 68th annual Veterans Day, Josh Budde, WHS girls basketball coach and Algebra 2 teacher, reflected on the beginning of his 26 years serving in the United States Navy.

“[When you’re] coming out of high school and you have people yelling and screaming all the time, it’s just different,” said Budde. “You have to get up early, you have to learn how to march, and they break you down and build you back up.”

For many, a startling beginning in the Armed Forces was followed by an exposure to various traumatic events.

“My dad was a lieutenant and then a captain, and he landed at Omaha beach on D-Day,” said campus supervisor Rick Kelman. “He actually lost half of his battalion because they were blown up and stepped on body parts. It was terrible.”

Though each experience differs among individuals, a common event ingrained in the minds of many veterans is the Sept. 11 attacks — a day that altered the United States in a complex amount of areas.

“After [9/11], everything changed for me,” said Budde. “How we fly now is different and how we go through airport security [has] changed. We were just doing things differently back then, and 9/11 for me was like Pearl Harbor for generations before me.”

However, stressful experiences are not the only challenge to joining the military. Due to a large time commitment to traveling and completing various duties, there is limited contact with family and loved ones.

“We were able to email and call, but of course [I missed them],” said Budde.  “You see people now, and they can’t be apart for a week, but if you’re in the military [then] you’re gone for three weeks, three months, […] nine months or a year. It’s part of what you signed up for.”

When enlisting, individuals must also be aware of the sacrifices their families will make to adjust for the ever-changing station assignments.

“It affected my whole life, but I didn’t know anything different,” said Stephanie Koenig, Forensic Science CP and Honors Chemistry teacher. “We moved every single year of my life until I graduated from high school, so I went to 14 different public high schools.”

Fortunately, the Armed Forces has its own set of benefits to compensate for the multitude of trials and tribulations, including financial support for schooling, traveling accommodations and healthcare.

“[The benefits were] seeing the world, paying for my education, meeting lots of people and [having] lots of new experiences,” said Budde. “I’ve seen a lot.”

With all the time spent in a military setting, leaving the Armed Forces behind requires individuals to re-adjust to their previous livelihoods.

“Reacquainting ourselves with civilian life took a minute,” said Budde. “You leave your family behind, and then you have to try to re-engage with them.”

In celebration of the Veterans and their connected experiences, members of the WHS staff and faculty reflect on the Armed Forces’ contribution to preserving the public’s freedom and the democratic system as a whole.

“What these people fought for in all the wars is for us to have what we have,” said Kelman. “We owe them the honor.”