Every November, Calvert Hall College High School in Towson holds a prayer service with the whole student body in honor of Veterans Day, school spokeswoman Danielle Hladky said. During the event, she said a staff member asks students to stand if anyone in their family has served in the military.
“When you see the overwhelming number of individuals who stand, it really warms your heart,” Hladky said. “You see how many people are really connected to the military.”
Now, to honor those connections and the service of alumni past and present, the 174-year-old Catholic school will break ground on a Veterans Tribute on Nov. 9, in time for Veterans Day on Nov. 11. The brick two-tiered structure will incorporate the American flag and symbols of each branch of the military, Hladky said.
“There’s a pretty strong tradition over the years of Calvert Hall graduates serving [in the military],” said Brother John Kane, the school’s president. “These are people who set aside their lives for a period of time … they did something in service to our country and it’s great to recognize.”
The outdoor tribute structure will stand between LaSalle Road and Keelty Hall and will cost approximately $250,000, Hladky said. So far, the school has raised about $200,000 in donations, she said.
It is a “tribute” and not a “memorial” because it honors veterans both living and dead, Hladksy said.
It is expected to be complete by Memorial Day in the spring of 2019, she said.
The monument was the brainchild of six veterans from the Class of 1965.
Retired Brig. Gen. Joseph Nattans Sr. said when fellow alumnus Nick Prevas, both of the Class of 1965, suggested building a tribute, he was “all in.”
“It was an opportunity to show our appreciation and to try to generate some enthusiasm for the younger folks coming up to realize that it’s actually an honor to serve this country,” Nattans said.
Prevas said he wanted to see a tribute on campus because for veteran alumni, returning to Calvert Hall is an emotional experience.
“When we go back to the Hall, it’s a tremendous feeling of nostalgia and homecoming,” Prevas said. “Just to see a memorial somewhere on the school campus, it would be a really nice touch.”
Growing appreciation of military
Nathan Valencia, 17, of Eldersburg, will speak about his family’s connections to the military at Friday’s service. The Calvert Hall senior said being raised by his father, a Navy veteran, makes the school’s new tribute all the more meaningful.
“It’s incredible,” Valencia said. “I’m really for it and I really appreciate it.”
Valencia plans to apply to both the Naval and Air Force academies, carrying on what he said is a long family tradition of military service. He said he thinks young people like himself have a growing appreciation for the military.
“I think that it’s becoming a lot more recognized and a lot of people are starting to appreciate the military and what they do for us,” Valencia said.
Nattans, a National Guard veteran who served in the military for 33 years, said during the 1960s he was deployed to calm civil unrest across the country, including in Baltimore after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
During that time, he said, some people thought “to be in the military was a disgrace” and would spit and throw rocks at him.
“Now, to have people say, ‘Thank you for your service,’ is tremendously emotional for most military folks because they are sacrificing,” Nattans said. “To be respected for doing the job is extremely gratifying.”
Kane said that over the school’s 174 years, Calvert Hall students have been around for most wartime drafts throughout America’s history, and fought in everything from the Vietnam War to the Civil War (on both sides).
Hladky said the school is still researching the number of alumni who served in the military, but estimated that roughly eight to 10 percent over the years have been veterans.
The school is putting out a survey to alumni and parents to gather names of students who have served, Hladky said, saying the names will be broadcast on a scrolling digital screen inside the school.
“We’re trying to show our students … that serving your country, and serving other people, is a worthwhile endeavor,” Kane said.
The prayer service and following groundbreaking are open to the public with an RSVP to Hladky at 410-825-4266 x198.