"I saw a full colonel in Army dress uniform and with him was a second officer. I could see on the lapel of his uniform the twinkling, shining sunlight reflecting off the brass crosses pinned there - a chaplain! I felt a surge of panic - of fear - of dread. Please God, not George!" - from "Regret to Inform You" by Norman E. Berg.
They are the ghosts of Central Regional. Three fought in Vietnam decades ago. One fought in Afghanistan. They are the boys who never came home.
George Phillip Berg, Class of 1965. The U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer was killed in a helicopter crash on a rescue mission in Laos on Feb. 18, 1971. His remains were never recovered.
U.S. Marine Private First Class William Walter Hester, Class of 1967. He was only 19 when he was killed on July 1, 1968, while defending his battalion under assault.
U.S. Marine Private First Class Robert Edward Church, Class of 1967. He was 21 when he was killed on May 16, 1968, while defending his platoon.
The Central Regional Alumni Association had already discussed plans for a war memorial for the school's three fallen veterans. The Fallen Heroes War Memorial will soon become a reality.
"They'd had a list of projects they wanted to complete," CRAA Project Coordinator Nancy Seibert said. "This was one of them."
But when last October, members of the Class of 2003 broached the subject again.
"We said it's been on the back burner for too long," Seibert said.
Seibert swung into action. She designed the memorial - a semi-circle of wall block with a black granite monument in the middle, near the original front entrance to the high school next to the flag pole.
"That was the goal, to keep it simple," Seibert said yesterday, as she and Central Regional Superintendent Triantafillos Parlapanides examined the nearly-completed memorial.
"It's a fitting tribute," Parlapanides said. "This turned out great. This is awesome. It blew me away."
The CRAA is still raising money for the cost of the granite monument. Donations can be made at the group's website at http://www.centralregionalalumniassociationbayvillenj.org or by mailing a check to CRAA, P.O. Box 150, Bayville, NJ 08721.
The V.F.W. Post 9503 started off the project with "a very large donation," Seibert said. Clayton Block donated the wall block. Sal's Landscaping in Toms River donated a work crew to build the site.
"The Central Regional ground crew did all of the cleanup work of the site," she said.
The names of Berg, Hester, Church and will be mounted on a bronze plaque secured on the granite monument before the dedication ceremony to be held sometime in October, Seibert said.
"We're hoping for October if we raise enough funds," she said. "We want to invite members of the families of the soliders and the general public."
The monument has enough space for 15 names. But Seibert hopes there won't be any more to add.
"God forbid we need more," she said.
Norman E. Berg, George Berg's father, is 92 now and lives in Manhattan. He wrote his book back in 1999. "Regret to Inform You" chronicles the experiences of families who lost loved ones in Vietnam. The first chapter is dedicated to his son George.
The Berg family was not particularly religious, Berg recalled in his book.
But when George was 15, he asked if he had ever been baptized.
"When he found out he hadn't been, he began going to church on his own, and six weeks later he told his parents that they were invited to his baptism ceremony," his father wrote. "He never explained why he felt the need for the ceremony."
Berkeley Patch plans additional, expanded stories on each soldier before the dedication ceremony.