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Caroline students put ‘sweat equity’ into Vets memorial

Members of the Caroline Middle School History Club made a little history of their own Monday at the dedication of a Korean War Memorial Garden.

But it isn’t just any memorial garden.

It sits on the 38th parallel, which happens to run in front of Caroline High School.

On the other side of the world, along the same parallel, is the landmark dividing line between North and South Korea.

While the students were learning about the significance of the 38th parallel, they learned, and then confirmed through a geographic information systems specialist at Fort A.P. Hill, that the line did indeed run through Caroline County.

So they set about looking for ways to mark the spot and honor veterans of the Korean War at the same time.

With the help of their teachers, the Board of Supervisors, the School Board and others in the community, their idea to post a sign turned into a 38-by-38-foot garden, with flags, flowers and memorial bricks.

Flowers were planted, but the garden was not filled in completely so that future students can add to it.

Monday’s ceremony honored the work of the students and the service the veterans gave to the United States.

Hundreds of veterans turned out to be honored and see the memorial.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Floyd Thomas thanked them for their service, and the students for their work, and had some encouraging words.

“From where I’m standing, the future is looking pretty good,” he said.

Sara Gibson, one of the history club advisers, said the garden was “the culmination of a dream of students and three teachers who love history.”

While the students originally wanted a marker from the Virginia Historical Society to designate the spot, and were declined, that didn’t hold them back from building the garden and designing their own signs.

“That did not stop us,” one student told the crowd.

U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman, R–1st, told the students that he recently went to the 38th parallel on the other side of the world, and being there reminded him of “why our men and women went to fight.”

Some history club members said they got involved in the club and the project because they have family who served in the military.

Caroline businesses and other private donors helped with the project, inspired by the students’ enthusiasm, said Kevin Wightman, the county’s building official and a veteran himself.

“They have some real sweat equity in this,” he said about the students’ work.

History club members agreed that the project was bigger and more wonderful than any of them expected.

After the ceremony, the history club members reflected on what the day meant to them.

“It was amazing to see their faces light up,” Aubrey Reese, an eighth-grade student, said of veterans who attended the event.

“We couldn’t have pictured this huge memorial—we pictured a sign,” another member of the history club said.

Andrew Buck, a former history club member who’s now a freshman at Caroline High School, said students were proud of what they accomplished.

“It’s good to know we made an impact on society,” he said.

Robyn Sidersky: 540/374-5413