By Eric Dehm
When Shaeli Funk was thinking about what she wanted to do for her senior year capstone project, she thought back to her great-grandfather Carl Birkemeyer.
Birkmeyer was a Private First Class who was killed in action in Iwo Jima while serving in the 28th regiment of the 5th Marine Division during World War II. Despite never having met him, Funk feels a strong connection to him.
“He’s kind of my personal hero,” Funk tells ConnectingVets.com.
When thinking over the project, she says she kept coming back to her great-grandfather and knew she wanted to do something with her capstone project that would make PFC Birkemeyer proud.
“I decided that for my project I wanted to designate veteran and active duty hero parking here in Jackson Hole,” Funk says. “So that’s what I’ve been working on for the last nine months.”
And that work has paid off, as there are now three parking spaces in Jackson, Wyoming, with more on the way. Funk says she’s gotten support from the community as a whole, and her fellow students.
“They think it’s pretty cool,” Funk says of her classmates. “Everyone has been super on board with it and telling other people about it.”
Seeing how quickly word got around the town of just under 10,000 residents, and considering she’s heard from people voicing support and asking to take part from as far away as Oregon, Funk says she believes and hopes this project could continue to grow.
“If you can get people that are inspired by this from a few other states outside of Wyoming, then why can’t you inspire people from all over the country? I think this could be a national project if people wanted to pursue it,” she says.
While Funk would like to see the project go national, she’s currently focused on continuing her education. Having graduated from Jackson Hole High School on June 10, Funk will now trade in the mountains of Wyoming for the beaches of southern California, as she attends Pepperdine University in the fall.