John Rupp has never forgotten Carl Ryder, Ralph Wheeler III and Wayne Greer.
All three lived in the Level Green area and were killed in action during the Vietnam War. Ryder and Wheeler were Rupp’s classmates at Trafford High School, and Greer was a year ahead of them, graduating in 1965.
“I think for myself and our classmates, we thought about them many, many times over the years,” said Rupp, 67, of Harrison City.
On Sept. 9, their memory will be preserved when a memorial is dedicated at Level Green Elementary School.
“When we had our Class of 1966 reunion committee meeting in August 2015, I asked the committee if they’d be interested in working on a memorial,” Rupp said. “They told me to go for it, and they agreed to help support it.”
Alerting classmates about the effort in reunion fliers, Rupp attended Penn Township, Penn-Trafford school board and Penn-Trafford Area Recreation Commission meetings to describe the project, solicit input and seek approval to have the memorial placed on the elementary school grounds.
Holly Ryder Thomas of Apollo, Ryder’s sister, said she’s thankful to see the memorial become a reality.
“My brother had a VFW named for him in Trafford at one point, but it’s since closed,” Thomas said. “It’s just very special that they decided to do this. I think it’s good for the next generation to see it.
“The (Vietnam) War really hit home, and people have sacrificed their lives for the freedom that we have today,” she said.
Ryder and Greer enlisted in the Marine Corps. Rupp said Wheeler’s family moved to the area when he was a high school sophomore; Rupp has not been able to track down members of the family.
Greer’s sister, Barbara Vuic of Trafford, said her brother was small but tough.
“He liked tinkering with cars, and he just loved hanging out with his friends,” Vuic said. “When Jack called, we were just really honored that they were including our brother in the memorial.”
“Up and down the line, everyone’s been extremely cooperative,” Rupp said. “Trafford High School grads from ’66 started donating, and we’ve gotten about $1,000 in donations already.”
The monument cost about $1,800, he said.
It is inscribed with the names, branches of service and dates of death for all three men, along with a plea to hold their memory dear: “We must never forget our brave Level Green friends and classmates that served in the Vietnam War and those that died there in service to our country.”
Members of the Greer and Ryder families, along with several of Greer’s classmates, will give remarks at the dedication ceremony, which will be at 6 p.m. at the elementary school, 650 Cypress Court in Trafford.
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2862 or firstname.lastname@example.org.