‘Freedom Circle’ is launched by OMS to salute area vets
by CHRISTY ARMSTRONG Banner Staff Writer
Nov 25, 2013 | 690 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
VETERANS stand outside Ocoee Middle School to help the school’s staff and a student representative kick off its Freedom Circle project, which will showcase the American flag and be paved with bricks bearing the names of veterans like themselves. From left are Ron Spangler, OMS principal; Jason Dehart, OMS Beta Club sponsor; Larry McDaris, veteran and director of veterans services for Bradley County; Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis; David Davis, veteran and retired Cleveland Daily Banner managing editor; Norman Barnard, veteran of World War II; Mark Swanson, veteran and OMS teacher; Claudie Caudill, veteran and OMS head custodian; Scott Campbell, veteran and father of student Matthew Campbell; and Matthew Campbell, eighth-grade OMS student and Beta Club member.  Contributed photo
VETERANS stand outside Ocoee Middle School to help the school’s staff and a student representative kick off its Freedom Circle project, which will showcase the American flag and be paved with bricks bearing the names of veterans like themselves. From left are Ron Spangler, OMS principal; Jason Dehart, OMS Beta Club sponsor; Larry McDaris, veteran and director of veterans services for Bradley County; Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis; David Davis, veteran and retired Cleveland Daily Banner managing editor; Norman Barnard, veteran of World War II; Mark Swanson, veteran and OMS teacher; Claudie Caudill, veteran and OMS head custodian; Scott Campbell, veteran and father of student Matthew Campbell; and Matthew Campbell, eighth-grade OMS student and Beta Club member. Contributed photo
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A local school wanted to move its flagpole to a more prominent place to make it more visible to students and the public.

It being the month in which Veterans Day is celebrated, the school’s leadership also wanted to continue to draw attention to the sacrifices veterans have made.

Ocoee Middle School recently started efforts to build a new courtyard near the school’s entrance to both showcase the American flag and the names of those who have served in the U.S. military.

“It is a community project for our veterans,” Principal Ron Spangler said.

Spangler explained he wanted to figure out a way to pay for the project of relocating the school’s flag without asking for money from the local school board, and he figured out a way he thought would allow the public to contribute money toward the project and honor veterans at the same time.

That idea led to what is now being called “Freedom Circle.”

The school’s flagpole is currently located against one of the school’s tall brick walls, and Spangler said students who help raise and lower the flag have to walk through a drainage ditch to get to it. He said the school’s American flag was once in a more prominent place, but is now farther away from what became the school’s main entrance after renovations took place since it began teaching sixth- through eighth-grade students as a middle school in 2001.

“When we redesigned Ocoee Middle School, the lobby became our focal point,” Spangler said.

The new “Freedom Circle” courtyard will be located nearer to the lobby’s entrance on a small incline adjoining the schools visitor’s parking lot. The American flag will be relocated there and possibly surrounded by benches and shrubbery. When visitors are not looking up at Old Glory, they will be able to look down and see bricks engraved with the names of veterans paving the area around it.

The school will be selling bricks through part of December to both pay for the costs of the project and allow the community to be involved with the process, Spangler said.

Anyone can purchase a brick for $40, which can be engraved with a veteran’s name and other information. An example Spangler showed included a veteran’s name, title and branch of military service and the person’s dates of service. Messages must contain no more than 18 characters in order to fit on a brick measuring 4 by 8 inches.

Once all the bricks have been engraved and delivered and the new area is completed, he said the school will likely have a ceremony to dedicate it.

In addition to asking people in the community to help financially, the school has also encouraged some students to be part of the project by giving their time. Students in the school’s Beta Club have decided to help out with the planning process as one of their community service projects for the school year.

All bricks to be placed in the new courtyard area must be purchased by Dec. 13.

For more information about the project, call Spangler or Jason DeHart at 423-476-0630; their email addresses are rspangler@bradleyschools.org and jdehart@bradleyschools.org.