CCSD Welcomes The Wall That Heals to Arnold Mill Elementary School

CCSD Welcomes The Wall That Heals to Arnold Mill Elementary School

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Russ Johnson shows his grandson, Arnold Mill Elementary School third-grader Holden Turman, the name on The Wall That Heals of one of his fellow Marines he served with in the Vietnam War. The Wall, a 250-foot, half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., is open to the public 24 hours a day until the display closes at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 20.

NOTE: A recorded Facebook Live video from this morning’s ceremony is posted on CCSD’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/CherokeeGASchools/

A large crowd of Vietnam War veterans and their families joined the Cherokee County School District in welcoming The Wall That Heals to Arnold Mill Elementary School today for its first-ever visit to the Woodstock community.

The 250-foot replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., along with a mobile education center, is being displayed at the school by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund through 2 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 20.  The display is open to the public 24 hours a day, with lighting to allow evening viewing.

The official welcome ceremony on Thursday morning featured keynote speaker, the Rev. Robert Certain, a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel who was held as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War.

The Rev. Certain has served as a military chaplain, parish priest and as an independent advisor to several cabinet-level federal departments.  He also is an author and speaker, and has been called to such roles as leading the memorial services and presiding over the burial of President Gerald R. Ford and delivering the invocation at the 2008 Republican National Convention.

“When you look at a name, you see the name, but if you shift your focus just a little bit, you see your own face,” the Rev. Certain said in his remarks, as he spoke of the power of visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which The Wall That Heals replicates in a half-scale model.  “That’s a reminder, that’s why it draws us in, that’s why I’ve never seen anyone walk that path without touching it.  It brings us into it.”

“That’s part of the healing power of this Wall,” the Rev. Certain said, reflecting upon his own first visit to the Memorial and seeing the names of soldiers who he fought alongside.  “The fact that you can be one with that other person… because their lives are written across your body.”

During The Wall’s stay at the school, students from Arnold Mill and schools throughout CCSD will visit it and the mobile education center, which houses artifacts and displays, to experience a tangible reinforcement of the history lessons they learn in classrooms.

“What an impact this will have on them for their entire life,” School Board Chair Kyla Cromer said in her remarks at the welcome ceremony.  “And what an impact this display will have on the entire community…  for many a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pay tribute to our Vietnam veterans.  Some may seem names of loved ones, perhaps a brother, a father or a grandfather or even a friend who fought alongside you but didn’t come home.  This Wall helps heal those still broken hearts.”

The welcome ceremony also included patriotic songs by the school’s chorus and remarks from Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, Cherokee County Commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens and Principal Daniel H. Fuller.  John Newport, Commandant for the Marine Corps League Detachment in Woodstock, shared a poem, with the colors presented by the River Ridge High School Junior ROTC and Taps played by Roger Spitz of Bugles Across America.

“When I walked The Wall this morning, I saw Sanchezes next to Schwartzes to Johnsons to Patowskis… people from all walks of life,” Dr. Hightower said.  “So to me, these names represent someone’s child, someone’s sibling, someone’s classmate, someone’s parent, someone’s friend, someone’s fellow soldier.  When we leave, may we depart with a sense of lasting gratitude for the heroes represented on this wall.  They paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.”

The Wall arrived on campus on Wednesday, escorted into Cherokee County by the Patriot Guard, Warrior Watch, Cherokee Sheriff’s Office and Woodstock Police Department.  It was welcomed onto campus by students, teachers, veterans groups and the CCSD School Police Department.  Donations from the school community are funding the event, and donations still are being accepted by the school.

First-grader Corbin Mahon cheered with his classmates as The Wall arrived at his school on Wednesday.

“It seems very exciting,” he said, as his classmates chanted “U.S.A.”  And he understands why The Wall is so special.  “The Wall honors the soldiers who died in the war.”

Principal Fuller said the experience has been an extraordinary one for everyone at the school.

“We love our veterans,” Principal Fuller said as The Wall arrived.  He wore a T-shirt that read “Heroes Don’t Wear Capes, They Wear Dog Tags,” which was made for school staff and volunteers for the event.  “This is about the veterans and showing our support.”

The Wall’s presence and the welcome ceremony were very much appreciated by veterans, Commandant Newport said.

“This was such an undertaking, and they did an awesome job,” he said of the school’s staff and volunteers.  “The kids who will see this… it’s just so meaningful.”

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Rev. Robert Certain, a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel who was held as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War, as keynote speaker for the welcome ceremony describes the design of The Wall and the significance of the order in which the names are inscribed.

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Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower takes a moment of quiet reflection at The Wall before the ceremony begins.

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John Newport, Commandant for the Marine Corps League Detachment in Woodstock, shares a moving poem about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

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School Board Chair Kyla Cromer, left, and School Board Member Kelly Poole look at names on a panel of The Wall.

 

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Dozens of veterans and their families attend the welcome ceremony for The Wall.

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Arnold Mill Elementary School students line the parking lot and cheer the arrival on Wednesday morning of The Wall and its motorcycle escort by Patriot Guard and Warrior Watch members.

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Arnold Mill Elementary School students line the parking lot and cheer the arrival on Wednesday morning of The Wall and its motorcycle escort by Patriot Guard and Warrior Watch members.

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Arnold Mill Elementary School students line the parking lot and cheer the arrival on Wednesday morning of The Wall and its motorcycle escort by Patriot Guard and Warrior Watch members.

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A veteran stops to read one of the exhibits that line the exterior of The Wall That Heals truck, which transforms into a mobile education center.

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Principal Daniel Fuller, right, talks on Wednesday with Tim Tetz, Director of Outreach for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, about the logistics of where The Wall will be assembled on the school grounds.