WESTFIELD - They might not have known Sgt. Kevin White personally, but that did not matter. They felt he should be honored and remembered.
"We thought this was a very important thing to do," Westfield teacher and last year's class advisor Greg Birner said.
At the end of the 2010-11 school year, the then senior class had money left in its account. Instead of spending the money on themselves or leaving it for future classes, members of the student council - Chelsea Barber, Madelyn Johnson and Chelsea Lapp - decided to use the funds to purchase a bench to be put on Westfield Academy and Central School grounds dedicated to the honor and memory of White, who was killed on May 2, 0211 when his lead vehicle struck an improvised explosive device or IED.
Photo by Jenna Loughlin
A bench honoring former Westfield Academy and Central School graduate Sgt. Kevin White was visited by his family and those integral in its inception. Pictured from left to right are: WACS Secondary Principal Ivana Hite; 2010-11 WACS Student Council Member Chelsea Barber; 2010-11 WACS Student Council Member Madelyn Johnson; 2010-11 WACS Student Council Member Chelsea Lapp; Kevin’s mother Patricia White; Kevin’s father Paul White; and 2010-11 WACS Senior Class Advisor Greg Birner.
"This was all them," WACS Secondary Principal Ivana Hite said.
The bench was installed near the main entrance to Westfield's school late last August, so three of the student council members had the chance to see the bench for the first time after returning from their freshman year of college this May.
"It's hard to see it. It's a constant reminder of (what) we've lost," Lapp said.
"I think it kind of stands as a memorial to all service people from Westfield," Johnson said. "I like that it's in a place where you can't miss it. Where it should be."
"It celebrates his life and everything he did for us," Barber said
"It's very sweet and touching ... that they would choose to do this," Kevin's mother Patricia White said.
"This right here at the school is a good way for kids to remember someone from their community gave his life," Kevin's father Paul White said. "We're thankful for having such a supportive community."
Patricia and Paul both complimented the student council members, saying they did a great job and went above and beyond, considering they were in eighth grade when Kevin White graduated from high school back in 2006.
However, Lapp said some of her classmates were close to the family and knew the Whites since Patricia works at the school. Barber remembers the school holding a moment of silence for Kevin and how emotional that was.
"It was heartbreaking, absolutely heartbreaking," Lapp agreed.
Johnson remembers a scholarship in Kevin's name being given last year and thinks that and the bench are great ways for people to always remember him.
"It's hard to remember, but it's necessary to remember," Barber said.
"It seemed appropriate to give back to someone who gave so much for our country," Lapp said.
In addition to the bench and the scholarship, Kevin has also been honored with a monument in the cemetery and having the boys' varsity soccer field at NorthLake Family Recreation Center in Westfield named after him. Additionally, The Westfield Teachers' Association is creating a Veterans' Wall of Honor in memory White.
Lapp said it is good to know there are people out there fighting for the country.
"You don't really think about it till it hits home," she said.
She wants to make sure Kevin's parents know, even though it's a trying time, everyone here is thinking of them.
"It's been a tough year," Patricia said.
"We miss him," Paul said.