Medina High School Graduate Honors Fallen Service Members From His Hometown
Recent Medina High School graduate Hudson Louie, 18, is paying homage to the fallen service members from his hometown, making sure their memories live on.
More than 45,000 local veterans are buried at the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery, united by their service and by the tranquil location in Seville that serves as their final resting place.
Louie may seem like an unlikely visitor when he comes to pay his respects, but this teenager feels a deep connection to the fallen servicemen and women.
“It's very humbling, because each step, you’re walking into a new area of people who have just laid down their lives to keep us free,” Louie said.
Louie’s curiosity about the veterans has evolved into a passion project. Over the last several years, he has researched thousands of Ohio’s fallen veterans, such as Pfc. Devin Grella who died at age 21, while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“Devon was a private first class in the U.S. Army right out of high school,” Louie said. “He enlisted in the U.S. Army, probably right after 9/11. And he graduated from Medina High School in 2002. He was in a convoy in Iraq and they were hit by an IED.”
Louie is making sure Grella and many others are honored by their shared alma mater, joining forces with Medina High School to have plaques made and displayed for every fallen service member who went to the school since World War I.
There will be a plaque for Max Eaken, a World War II sailor. Eaken was killed at age 18 while serving aboard the USS Bunker Hill in May 1945, when two Japanese kamikaze planes bombed the aircraft carrier and crashed into it.
“The commander wrote to Max’s father and he said that Max was one of the best Blue Jackets you could have aboard,” Louie said on a visit to Eaken’s cenotaph. “Everyone loved him. He always made everyone smile.”
Max Eaken, a Medina graduate who went on to serve in World War II, died at the age of 18 when the USS Bunker Hill was attacked by Japanese kamikaze planes. The ship's commander wrote Eaken's father after and said he was one of the best Blue Jackets you could have on board and he made everyone smile. [Hudson Louie]
So how did this teenager become so invested in the history of local veterans? His labor of love started during a weekend away with his family, bored in a remote cabin with spotty internet access.
“I found a little pamphlet in the cabin and it had inside it, Logan service members who were killed in action,” he said. “And that got me interested in thinking, who are the service members who were killed in action from Medina?
Since then, Louie has spent countless hours at his computer pouring over websites, even hunting down information through history videos on YouTube. He has strung bits of information together to draw a more complete picture of the fallen – their lives, military service, medals earned.
Gathering old photos, sometimes through family members, Louie has turned colorizing the black-and-white military portraits into an art form.
Louie’s parents, Ryun and Denise, are awed by his commitment and happy that he found something to throw himself into.
“I think that's one of the most important things that we believe, as his parents, is that we want to help his passion and help develop his passion, even if it's not necessarily the passion that we have growing up,” Ryun Louie said.
His mother said Louie is keeping history alive with the project.
“I'm just completely awed at the depth of his research and his grasp of the stories and the human element of it,” Denise Louie said. “He’s just not reciting facts and figures, but I mean, he knows the human story about what they were doing.”
Hudson Louie is attending DePaul University in Chicago, where he'll major in Film and Television. He hopes to be involved in productions like Band of Brothers, the highly acclaimed series about Easy Company during World War II. [Hudson Louie]
Louie had plans to eventually merge his passion for history and video production. He’s going to DePaul University in Chicago to study film and television. So it’s no surprise that his quest to preserve the memory of these Medina County veterans’ started in part because of the Disney-Pixar movie “Coco.”
In the 2017 film, the characters explore the Mexican tradition of the three deaths: physical death, when a body is laid to rest in the earth and when the last people who remember you also die.
“It scared me that these guys could possibly go through the same thing,” Louie said. “Like Max Eaken. He was an only child, right? And his parents had passed away. And I wanted to make sure that he still has someone to remember him and that maybe after I’m gone, he can be remembered as well.”
A ceremony unveiling the plaques honoring the fallen service members will be held at Medina High School later this year.
Ralph Herrington, a Medina High graduate, was in the men's choir. He became an Army Air Forces Technical Sergeant who served in World War II. He was working as a radio operator on a bomber crew when the plane he was on was shot down over Austria. [Hudson Louie]