On Veterans Day, Nov. 11, the Arbor Hills Junior High School staff and students honored local veterans. They also saluted their own family of veterans; teachers, former students and family members that have–or are serving–in the military. During a special assembly, over 15 veterans were formally recognized for their years of service along with a salute to visiting veterans.
Among those honored was Specialist Matthew Drake, a former student of Arbor Hills and graduate of Northview High School. The ceremony included the presentation of a special award in honor of Drake. Drake has been a part of his junior high alma mater’s Veterans Day ceremonies since returning home from Iraq in 2004. Drake has gone through an exhaustive recuperation and recovery after surviving a bomb blast that killed the other members of his team on Oct. 15, 2004. Not only was Drake not expected to survive but, with a fractured skull, severe head injuries, multiple back injuries and damage to his right arm and shoulder, his recovery is nothing short of miraculous. In honor of his courage and fight, a new student award, the Specialist Matthew Drake Courage Award, has been created by his former teacher Walt Connolly, Arbor Hills media specialist.
This award will recognize students that demonstrate exceptional courage, strength and resiliency in overcoming life challenges. These demonstrate the characteristics displayed by Drake as he worked through the physical, emotional, social and mental challenges to fully recover from his wounds.
The announcement of the award and recognition on Veterans Day served as a prelude to a special presentation and release of the book, “Just As He Is Now,”written by Drake’s mother, Lisa Schuster. The book chronicles the challenges Drake encountered following the bomb attack in Iraq.
A book signing took place Nov. 12 at Olivet Lutheran Church. Proceeds of the book will help bridge the gap between the benefits Drake receives and the actual cost of the care that he needs.