CLEAR FORK VALLEY — Youngsters at the Bellville elementary school probably never thought they would get honors for a recent project honoring members of the military and first responders.
But the Bellville school has been named one of 44 in the state to be a “Purple Star” designee.
The Ohio Department of Education has handed out those honors, saying “we applaud and appreciate your outstanding commitment to serving military students and families in your school.”
Monday was a special day at the Bellville schools, where everyone was invited to wear purple to acknowledge receiving the state honor.
One teacher at Bellville, Ashley Twedt, has served as a “military liaison” in putting together information supplied to the state.
She created files kids can look at in the school office. These contain information about websites they can use. A special bulletin board has been put together and kids were asked to write letters about military and first responder people they know.
There has also been a “military kids lunch bunch” for kids whose parents are in the military or serve as first responders.
The letters the kids wrote had a major effect.
School principal Kirsten DeVito said reading the letters left many people crying.
Twedt said four per cent of the students at Bellville elementary have parents attached to some type of military service.
When parents get deployed, “school falls to the wayside,” she said.
Some parents are attached to the 179th Airlift Wing at Lahm base in Mansfield. Others are attached to the Rickenbacker base in Columbus.
The “lunch bunch” has been interesting, Twedt said, because many kids realized after attending that their friends might be in the same position — having to cope with parents gone for long periods of time.
She said she could sit back and listen to kids saying “My dad just came back from Jordan” and others saying theirs had, too.
Kylee Warmath is one of the students Twedt has been working with. She said she wrote in her letter about her father, and asked that he “be safe” and “do good” while he was deployed.
Evan, Wade, Will and Amelia Hamilton have a father who is a colonel with the 179th Airlift Wing at Lahm. A photograph of him is used on the bulletin board next to the school office.
Twedt is an intervention specialist working with fourth and fifth graders at the Bellville school.
She has a brother, Derek Pleiman, who spent one year in Afghanistan and then returned there working for a private contractor. After that ended he returned to active duty.
She said her brother feels strongly about serving because of the “legacy” left by their grandfather. He had become very sick and his presence had meant much to her and her brother.
She said after serving in Afghanistan her brother saw “what positive roles” someone in the military could serve.
She said it was “heartbreaking and endearing” to see his reaction. She said she is older than her brother by five years and she had always thought of herself as a protector.
“But now he’s protecting us,” she said.
He is helping “keep the country safe,” she said.
Twedt said her brother is driven partially by the fact he was at the site of an attack on an open air market in Afghanistan. Two of his friends were lost.
She has a sister in law who serves at Rickenbacker. The sister of her sister in law is a crew chief working with C135 aircraft, used in refueling jets.
Being a crew chief means she is responsible for making sure things are “good to go” before a flight take off, Twedt said.
For herself, she has attended an educators’ day at Rickenbacker and was able to be “down in the boom” to see things up close.
The receipt of the Purple Star award means that the school is being recognized for its work to “just support and be there for them,” Twedt said.