Ryun presents flags in soldier’s memory
Kelly Frantz, like many people, doesn't look forward to public speaking.
But when she's asked to speak in honor of her husband, she proudly accepts.
"I know he is smiling down at all of us and down at me," Frantz said Friday about her late husband, Cpl. Lucas Frantz, who was killed Oct. 18 -- his 22nd birthday -- while serving in Iraq.
Kelly Frantz spoke during an assembly Friday at the THS gymnasium. At the ceremony, Congressman Jim Ryun presented Frantz with a U.S. flag that flew over the nation's capitol on Veterans Day in the late soldier's honor.
"This is real, this is what happens," Frantz said. "This is reality."
Frantz spoke to THS students and a handful of local residents gathered for the ceremony. She spoke about how her husband loved his school and what immense pride she had in being his wife. She said she was "proud of Lucas, proud of her country, proud to be free."
Before the assembly started, Ryun said it was important to remember the loved ones of fallen soldiers.
"Sometimes we think of the corporal and forget the wife that's hurting as well," Ryun said.
During the assembly, Ryun reiterated those sentiments.
"God bless you for the sacrifices you made and for Lucas as well," Ryun told Frantz.
After Ryun presented Frantz with the flag, Frantz gave the flag to THS principal Tatia Shelton. The school plans to display the flag on the high school campus, but a specific place has not been picked. Assistant principal Brent Smith said administrators have discussed flying the flag at a football game as well.
Several Veterans of Foreign Wars members joined the student body at the event, as did Tonganoxie City Council members. Family and friends of the Frantzes also attended.
VFW member Larry Meadows said Frantz's death marked the first casualty of war for Tonganoxie in roughly 50 years.
The death struck a chord with THS junior Jake Heskett. A member of Tonganoxie's football team, Heskett recalled the day at practice when coach Mark Elston told his players about Frantz's death. The school later paid tribute to Frantz by retiring his number and jersey before a football game.
Heskett wrote about that experience for the VFW-sponsored Voice of Democracy contest, an essay that was named the winning entry from more than 40 entries from THS students.
During the ceremony, Meadows announced that Heskett placed first in the contest, while Daniel Volk placed second and Kezia Huseman third. The VFW, which has members judge the contest entries, awarded Heskett $75, Volk $50 and Huseman $25 for their essays.
Heskett said he rewrote his essay "three times." The essay was due the week after Frantz's ceremony took place at the football field.
"I still don't think it's as good as it could be," Heskett said.
Heskett was glad to see the school once again recognize Lucas Frantz.
"We do really honor those who have fallen," Heskett said. "For the students to clap and honor him the way they did -- there are people who care, no matter how old you are."
Meadows also gave Heskett a Voice of Democracy medal and hat. His essay appears in today's edition of The Mirror.
Heskett's essay placed second in the northeast Kansas region, which consists of about 20 VFW post homes. If the essay would have taken first, it would have been eligible for the state contest. A top essay there advances to the national contest.
Meadows challenged THS students to participate in the contest next school year.
"Let's have a state winner and compete for a national winner," Meadows said.
Volk's essay focused on diversity in America and how minorities have faced struggles with gaining freedom. Huseman's essay, meanwhile, centered on what freedom means to her, she said.
Both students said they appreciated Friday's assembly.
"I thought it was really great to meet Jim Ryun," Volk said. "I've never met him personally.
"All the VFW members being there was great."
As for Huseman, she said Kelly Frantz really brought home a message about her late husband.
"I thought it was moving," Huseman said.