Eighteen veterans waited in the nearby media center along with the students’ desks. One by one the veterans carried the desks to the classroom. The students stood silently in the back of the room still questioning exactly what was taking place. After each desk was placed in its row, each of the 18 stated details of his or her service. Some included their years and branch of service and tour of duty.
After the youngest veteran, Shephard Bowen, stated he served in the Army from 2004 to 2012 and completed a tour in Iraq and Afghanistan, an older Legionnaire turned to him and said, “Welcome home.”
Holsomback explained to the students the message behind the 15-minute exhibition.
“These men and women paid the sacrifice so you guys could have a safe seat here. You are able to sit in a free public school every day because of what these veterans have done,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about your school being bombed or your school bus blowing up like they do in the Middle East or in other countries so they were willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice for their country for freedom, for democracy, for rights and to serve and support their country. There is no greater calling than we can have to honor our vets and the things they have done for us.”
Holsomback’s inspiration for the event came after meetings with Cartersville Principal Marc Feuerbach and Superintendent Dr. Howard Hinesley.
“Mr. Feuerbach asked us to do something great for the first day of school instead of the normal first day where the role is called and the syllabus is reviewed,” Holsomback said. “Also, Dr. Hinesley said something to us that impacted me. He told us in faculty meeting that when kids graduate he wants them to have a firm handshake and look the board members in the eyes and say, ‘Thanks.’ That requires discipline and that requires focus and so does the military. Just to correlate with what he challenged us with, these kids need to have a sense of pride and sense of ownership that Cartersville High School is great and so is our country.”
American Legion Carl Boyd Post Commander Glen Thompson was on hand to represent the post and hoped this would be the beginning of a new partnership with the city high school.
“The message we have been asked to come and convey is our students for the large part have the freedom and the educational opportunities that are provided here in the United States because of our veterans and the service that has happened in the past,” Thompson said. “That is what we sure hope comes across and that the students perceive it well and realize that we’re also proud of them.
“They are our future and education is a key point in that along with service to one’s country, self, state, community and family and all those great things.
Thompson continued, “In the big scheme of things, they are our potential veterans for the future. Our military is truly a young service; not everyone is an old guy like me that stuck around forever. They are our future in more ways than one. Some understand the patriotic duty and that it is steeped in family relationships and people want to serve, but there are those who don’t necessarily understand what military service truly is about and hopefully we can start some mentorship.”
Ties to military service run deep for Holsomback, whose father and grandfathers were all military personnel.
“Both of my grandfathers served in World War II. One of them, Otto Langston, earned three Bronze Stars in the Asiatic Pacific Campaign. He was from Calhoun and about 5 feet, 6 inches tall and weighed 120 pounds.
“Dad was stationed in Berlin during the time of the Vietnam War. He guarded Rudolf Hess, who was one of Hitler’s right-hand men during the Holocaust.”
Holsomback admitted the presentation may seem a bit odd to students but it was an important message, one which he hoped was eye opening and memorable.
“I don’t mind getting them out of their comfort zone. Kids need to understand and appreciate our country and our veterans,” he said.
The demonstration impacted freshman Ben Jordan, who may reconsider his future plans.
“It actually made me consider joining the military at some point. We have so many freedoms that other countries do not because of those serving in the military. Some of the veterans talked about how important it is to give back to our country in some way to maintain our freedom,” Jordan said.