Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow is pictured with Red Bay teacher Julie Bolton and members of her fourth-grade class as they toured Cypress Cove Farm at a Veterans Day event on Nov. 5. Photo by Cassie Medley.
Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow is pictured with Red Bay teacher Julie Bolton and members of her fourth-grade class as they toured Cypress Cove Farm at a Veterans Day event on Nov. 5. Photo by Cassie Medley.

Archived Story

Students learn ‘freedom isn’t free’

Published 5:39pm Monday, November 18, 2013

RED BAY – As Frankie Smith looked out over the group of students gathered at Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow’s Cypress Cove Farm on Nov. 5, his hope was that by the end of the day, each student would leave with a greater understanding of just exactly what it cost for each of them to enjoy the freedoms they have today.

Smith, who is the commander of the American Legion Division 1, was instrumental in arranging the special Veterans Day event at Cypress Cove Farm where 200 fourth, fifth, and sixth grade students from Red Bay School gathered to learn more about the role veterans have played in United States history.

“This event is something we came up with when I was talking to Johnny Mack about today’s kids and how many of them don’t even know what a veteran is,” he said.

Smith, a Red Bay resident and a regular attendee of the annual Red Bay High School Veterans Day program each year, said he began thinking about how many students attend Veterans Day events year after year and see these men and women sitting in the audience but don’t really grasp what they are being honored for.

“The fourth graders weren’t even born when 9/11 happened,” Smith said. “Even if they are studying and learning about veterans in school, it’s still hard for them to understand just what all veterans have sacrificed in order for them to enjoy the freedoms they have.”

Smith said as he discussed these thoughts with Morrow and Jeff Emerson, an idea began to take shape.

“We thought it would be great to have a group of students out to Johnny Mack’s farm for a day of learning that ‘freedom isn’t free,’” Smith said.

“After Johnny Mack offered to let us use his farm, I went to the schools and talked with the fourth, fifth, and sixth grade teachers and they all agreed it would be a good thing for their students to do.”

Smith said once all the students had been bussed to the farm, he divided them up into four “platoons” and each group heard stories from local veterans and were treated to rides in several military vehicles supplied by Morrow.

“Each platoon of students listened to several veterans speak about heir time in service and what they did for our country,” Smith said. “We had veterans from the World War II era up until the recent war in Afghanistan.

“The program was also opened by Mrs. Beulah Tooley, who spoke about the life of Anne Frank.”

Smith said they also set up a museum of sorts where they displayed flags, pictures and other artifacts.

Fifth and sixth grade teacher Shanna Ozbirn said the experience was one she knew that neither she nor her students would soon forget.

“I wanted my students to be involved because I am in awe of what so many did and sacrificed for our country,” Ozbirn said.

“In the sixth grade curriculum, I teach all wars from WWI to present and this gave the students a better understanding of this material.

“Our first veteran speaker, Dexter Bostick, gave a real-life definition of the draft and shared his own story of deciding to join the Army and serve his country because he would not be drafted due to being married and having a child.

“He went on to make a career out of that decision and retired from the military, and it was fascinating to get to hear these kinds of personal stories.”

Smith said evaluations forms were sent back wit the students for them to describe what they had learned during the event, and he said he has received positive feedback so far.

“I think one thing our students learned from this day was to thank a veteran, which was something Rep. Morrow spoke on,” Ozbirn said.

“My youngest daughter, Kyndell, is in fourth grade and was able to attend the program. The Friday after the program we had the opportunity to meet someone due to other circumstances that was a veteran.

“Kyndell said, ‘Mom, we should thank him like we learned about at our program,’ and she did thank him. I think it touched him as well as her.

“These men are the reason we can get up and go to school each day, we can attend the church of our choice on Sunday, and chose our own jobs and spouses. These are many simple things that we take for granted and other people in foreign countries would give everything to have.

“I appreciate everyone who had a part in organizing this event, and I hope it’s something we will have each year.”

Smith said they have already discussed plans for next year’s event and hope to make it an annual occurrence.

“I think it’s important to educate these younger kids about our veterans and what they have done for this country,” Smith said.

Morrow agreed the event was something special that he hoped to continue.

“When Frankie came to me with this idea, I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of because of veterans are such a treasure, and there is so much we can learn from them,” Morrow said.

“These students often take their freedoms for granted just because they simply to do grasp the cost there was to pay for those freedoms. Freedom is not free. It was bought at a high price and at the sacrifice of so many.

“I think this was a wonderful event for these students, and even the teachers and other members of the community who were there.”

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