Preparing to Honor Heroes

Prepping for freedom walk
By: Todd Martin

As a nation reflects on the anniversary of a tragedy, a new generation of children will march with flags and wear handmade red, white and blue hats in celebration of the everyday heroes who keep us safe.
On Tuesday, the day before the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on America, students across Killeen made signs and banners, hats and vests in anticipation of hallway parades and other activities tied to patriotism and recognizing community heroes.
Alongside the campus events across Killeen ISD, the school district is hosting the 14th annual community Freedom Walk from 9 to 11 a.m., starting with an assembly in the Killeen High School auditorium and continuing with a lap around the adjacent Leo Buckley Stadium track.
With a wide variety of focus based on grade level, educators take advantage of the anniversary as a teachable moment to reflect on the importance of the selfless service of law enforcement and military personnel to standing together in the face of obstacles.
At Pershing Park Elementary School, fifth-grade teacher Bethany Ragsdell carefully painted each of her students’ hands one at a time so they could impress their red prints onto a banner in the shape of a flag.
The handprint flag, the teacher said, goes along with the idea of “United We Stand,” with each class working together for the good of the whole school.
“It’s important for our students to take pride that soldiers protect our country,” said second-grade teacher Susana Nicolau as her students cut out stars to decorate their paper hats.
Students as young as pre-kindergarten learn about community helpers like police and firefighters, the work they do and the role they play in keeping people safe.

A similar scene played out across town at West Ward Elementary School where fourth-graders made pictures displaying their ideas of America to carry during a parade the next day.
West Ward fourth-grade teacher Alison Rodriguez placed patriotic emblems on a screen and wrote words of courage on the board. She said she wanted student to understand the cohesion Americans felt and feel following the attacks of 2001.
Pershing Park fourth-grade teacher Carissa King said her students read a book about America and patriotism. “Especially in our area it’s important to know what’s going on in the world, why we do a pledge and have a moment of silence every day.”
Units on community leaders include the heroes of 9/11, kindergarten teacher Sonia Mason said, noting that a video showed the specialized equipment first-responders use to rescue those in danger.
“This is a way we can be supportive,” she said, noting that students can demonstrate their appreciation to Fort Hood soldiers and to police and firefighters as they display signs and walk around the school.
Parents and volunteer soldiers also take part in the school’s annual freedom walk.
“Our focus is on honoring the military and first responders in our community,” said Pershing Park counselor Sonja Lavan. “We want to show our pride in America.”