Lt. Matthew R. Vandegrift’s memory and sacrifice was honored by the Four Points community on Saturday as the new facility which bears his name was formally dedicated as LISD’s fifth high school.
“Though he died a true American hero, it was the way he lived his life that set him apart from the others ... with loyalty, honor and civic duty,” LISD Superintendent Bret Champion said.
Vandegrift grew up in Steiner Ranch and graduated with honors from Leander High School in 1999. He earned a degree in international business, Summa Cum Laude, from Texas A&M and enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 2005.
Vandegrift was killed in Basra, Iraq, in 2008, four days after his 28th birthday.
On hand for the moving ceremony and tribute were Lt. Gen. Joe Weber, USMC (Ret.) and vice president for student affairs at Texas A&M, members of Vandegrift’s family, as well as the LISD Board of Trustees and Vandegrift High School staff.
Weber spoke of a museum case display at Vandegrift’s alma mater which houses memorials of 22 Texas Aggie graduates who have given their lives for their country. He reflected on the inscription below Vandegrift’s photo.
“Lt. Matthew Ryan Vandegrift was very interested and concerned at all times in helping people better their lives,” said Weber. “What better legacy to help better someone’s life than a high school like this?”
Vandegrift participated in extracurricular sports activities and was an excellent athlete and competitor.
“We talk about Matthew on a daily basis,” said Vandegrift High School athletic coordinator Drew Sanders. “Because of Matthew, we’re able to talk about honor, discipline, Aggies, Marines and service.”
Sanders related how his team retired Vandegrift’s football jersey #7 and instituted two team awards: the “Most Valuable Player Award” and the “Second to None Award,” which is given to the team member who represents “working hard and putting others first.”
Capt. Harry Boyd of the U.S. Marine Corps sent a video from his base in which he spoke of his fallen friend’s values in life.
“Go out and work hard for the things you need to accomplish but enjoy the things that make you happy,” Boyd said to the students present.
“He was a true brother, a true friend and a well-loved son.”
John Vandegrift spoke of his sons’ “relentless pursuit of adventure,” their love of competition and drive to succeed. Vandegrift’s brother, Barrett, is a captain and helicopter pilot in the U.S. Air Force.
“We must never forget that we owe them a debt that we can never repay,” John said, wiping away tears.
During the program, Principal Charlie Little and other speakers admonished students to take pride and inspiration from their school and the American hero it is named after.
“Every person who talked used the word ‘Legacy,’ and, as part of the Legacies, I felt so honored and proud to be a Legacy,” said Legacies Dance Team Colonel Ashlee Cloud.