As part of their service learning, last spring Creekwood Middle School staff and students began to “honor all veterans” by starting a new project to create a special park for veterans on the CMS campus. This noble project is being constructed in front of CMS on W. Lake Houston Parkway, and it is funded by the sale of commemorative bricks. A dedication ceremony will be held Nov. 5, at 5:30 p.m. to sanction the new veterans Honor Garden as a permanent place to honor all veterans, which is open to community members to visit and reflect on the “service” of others. A lighted flagpole stands 25 feet above a pentagon-shaped base, which is adorned with bronze medallions of the five branches of U.S. military service. The flagpole base is surrounded by a large star shape, which will be comprised of engraved bricks that are purchased by those who want to honor loved ones who have served or are serving the country. The 4-by-6 foot flag, which was donated by the oldest and largest U.S. flag manufacturer in the country, Annin Flag Company, will be raised for the first time in this hallowed place of honor. CMS principal Walt Winicki said the community has responded to their Honor Garden by supporting their fundraising efforts and by buying bricks to honor those in their families who have served in the military. According to CMS teacher Jan York, about 172 bricks have been sold so far – the star will hold approximately 650 bricks. “We have a ways to go, but are committed to this being permanent and maintained for all. The bricks can be purchased from a service-learning representative at the CMS front desk, as well as from a link on the CMS website,” York said. CMS teacher Gina Thompson said brick sales are ongoing and will continue to be added to the star and, eventually, to walkways. “CMS students who are service-learning representatives will maintain the Honor Garden as a special place for the community,” said Thompson. In addition to the commemorative brick-filled star, three benches will be placed honoring Frank Buckles (last surviving, now deceased, WWI soldier) and two local heroes - Brandon Bury and Luke Yepsen. Both young men went through schools in the Humble Independent School District. Because they served their community and nation proudly, their memory will be honored with these specially engraved benches at the memorial. The heart of this service learning Project is to bring “Patriotic Pride” to their school and to the community. CMS invites the community to become a permanent part of the project by purchasing commemorative bricks. For each gift of $50, a brick will be engraved according to the contributor’s specifications. Proceeds from the sale of each brick will go toward construction. Interested persons might want to buy a brick in honor of an individual Veteran; honor all Veterans; a family name; a student or alumni’s name and/or business or organization name. It’s an easy way to leave a lasting family legacy and help complete this project. “For me, personally, this is a way to pay tribute to those who have served in the military at anytime in our history and during any conflict,” said Winicki. “I grew up during a time where there was a significant amount of negative fallout from our country’s involvement in Vietnam. That whole experience influenced the thoughts and feelings of many Americans in ways that are truly unfortunate,” he said. “Our country learned a valuable lesson from the whole Vietnam experience, and that is to respect and honor those who choose to serve our country – period,” Winicki continued. “My support and involvement in this project and projects we have done in the past and will do in the future will have this thought in mind. I will do what I can, whenever I can, to make sure we never ever lose sight of the need to honor those who serve to protect our country.” Terra Farmer, a former teacher at CMS, had the initial idea of a permanent memorial to veterans. After researching memorials across the state, she decided on the unique star design. The kick-off fundraiser to begin construction was a fun-filled faculty vs. school board basketball game held at Creekwood last year. Bob Ligon, husband of teacher Vicki Ligon, has worked on the design and construction of the project, with the assistance of JC Cage and his industrial tech students. Winicki and his staff have helped their students make significant contributions to a variety of projects in recent year through service learning, such as Nothing but Nets; Help Lauren Learn; The Autism Walk and the World War I Memorial Foundation Project in 2009. When a group of students and teachers visited the World War I Memorial in Washington, D.C., as part of the re-dedication and restoration effort, their love for veterans sparked. At that time, they presented a check for nearly $14,000 for the WWI restoration project to 108-year-old Buckles, who was the last surviving WWI veteran at the time. All of the projects, including last year’s community Veteran’s Day Concert benefiting Wounded Warriors, have had an immeasurable effect on the students involved and the causes to which they have contributed. The general consensus is that their service learning projects help to set Creekwood apart as a service-oriented school, building good citizens for the future – proud of what has been accomplished. For more information on the Honor Garden at CMS and to download an order form for bricks, visit the Creekwood Middle School website at Order forms can be mailed or personally delivered to the school at 3603 W. Lake Houston Parkway, Kingwood. CMS Students’ give their take on service learning: Service-learning representatives at Creekwood Middle School were eager to express their thoughts about what the veterans Honor Garden and service learning projects at Creekwood Middle School mean to them. Annie Velasco: “It feels great to honor our veterans. It is the least we can do, since they gave the ultimate sacrifice for me and my freedom.” Jessie Feuerbacher: “I feel like I can really make a difference in service learning, and it’s fun to help, while learning.” Miranda Capaletti: “Service learning helps me honor our community and our veterans, and it makes me feel it’s the least I can do to give back to the people who sacrificed themselves for my friends, my family and me.” Megan Letsos: “Service learning helps make a difference in the community. We need to honor our veterans. and they need more recognition than they get. So it feels good to make a memorial for them.” Hannah Ribbeck: “I feel that it is important to honor our veterans and give them the recognition they deserve.” Alejandra Cortes: “I love helping people. It brings me joy. I do the best I can do. I love service learning!” Izzy Mazzapica: “Service learning makes me feel like I’m fulfilling a part in America.” Kimberlyn Alford: “Service learning is so much fun! It warms my heart to know that I’m making a difference in the world.”  Photo: Creekwood Middle School will dedicate their veterans Honor Garden on Nov. 5, at 5:30 p.m. at the CMS campus. CMS service-learning representatives scope the progress that has been made at the Honor Garden: Cameron Arceneaux, left, Kimberlyn Alford, Hannah Ribbeck, Megan Lutsos, Kristen, Newman, Alejandra Cortes, Brian Saydyk, Reagan Sharp, Jessie Feuerbacher, Izzy Mazzapica, Annie Velasco and Miranda Capaletti. Photo by Trilla Cook

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