Honoring a local hero
Ritenour High School’s Hall of Fame inducts nationally renowned U.S. Army veteran
By Sara Hardin
A very special inductee to Ritenour High School’s Hall of Fame was honored with a ceremony at the school on Friday, Sept. 15. Sgt. 1st Class Cory Remsburg, who graduated from the school in 2001, was chosen to join the collection of portraits in light of his achievements as a U.S. Army Ranger and his remarkable recovery from critical injuries sustained during his 11th deployment in Afghanistan in October 2009.
“[Cory] suffered a traumatic brain injury, and he could have very well given up, but he kept right on,” said Jerry Nolen, Activities Director at Ritenour High School. “He has been working hard, and he has been out fundraising for the organizations that helped him. He exemplifies everything that we try to instill in our students here. His dedication to serve our country, his responsibility there, the excellence that he showed as a ranger, his attitude and his perseverance in healing and getting better. Instead of folding, which he very well could have done, he said ‘I’m going to make it and I’m going to come back.’”
Former teachers who knew Remsburg as a high school student remember him as having a penchant for typical teenage hijinks; but also as a spirited, fun-loving young man.
“He had a grin like he had just gotten away with something,” laughed Hadley Haux, Ritenour High School band director. “He was a good kid. He could get into a little bit of ordinary teenage boy mischief now and then, but he had a really good heart and you could never stay mad at him for very long.”
Remsburg now stands as a decorated war hero, having been awarded the Meritorious Service Medal, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. His road to recovery caught the attention of the national media and President Obama, who invited Remsburg to be his guest at the 2014 State of the Union Address. Remsburg received the longest standing ovation of the evening.
“I think what’s made Cory unique is what he’s done since his injury, and that is his hard road to rehabilitation and how he didn’t let it keep him from living life,” said Haux. “His perseverance through this has been incredible, working through his rehab to gain back as much control over his life as he could. He’s traveled around the country and has been an example to other wounded vets. What makes him a hero is what he’s done since his injury.”
Even now, having relocated close to his family in Arizona and after national recognition, Remsburg hasn’t forgotten his roots. He has returned numerous times to St. Louis and to Ritenour High School to visit with former teachers, the school band members and friends in the area. In 2013, he was invited to be the grand marshal of the Ritenour High School Homecoming Parade. Now his portrait is hung as a permanent addition to the school’s Hall of Fame, a gesture that friends of Remsburg say still couldn’t keep him from remaining so humble.
“It’s very exciting to see a young man of this caliber who I call a hero,” said Nolen. “He tells me, ‘No, the heroes didn’t make it back. I made it back.’ I know that’s how a lot of soldiers feel, but that’s just the way Cory is. He doesn’t like a lot of fuss being made over him. I’m sure that [the ceremony] kind of embarrassed him a bit because that’s how he is. He’s a good guy. He really is.”
CUTLINE: Photos courtesy Ritenour School District
Cover-Hero1 Cory Remsburg (right) visits with Hadley Haux, his longtime band director at Ritenour High School.
Cover-Hero2 Cory Remsburg (right) stands with Ritenour High School Activities Director Jerry Nolen at Ritenour High School.
Cover-Hero3 Cory Remsburg served as the grand marshal of the Ritenour High School Homecoming Parade in 2013.
Cover-Hero4: Photo courtesy Prophet Rock Studio Cory Remsburg’s portrait for the Ritenour High School Hall of Fame.