BIDWELL, Ohio — What started out as a way to honor Veterans from a distance during a pandemic has become a new tradition as River Valley High School (RVHS) brings back its Healing Field.
“We started last year because we couldn’t have a Veterans Day assembly,” said Brea McClung, American history and AP government teacher. “We were trying to think of something where we could allow veterans to drive through and just like be part of something for our veterans.”
McClung said she feels it’s important for students to learn about respect and sacrifice. Not only does this project do that but the students love it, she said.
“This year the kids immediately when we started school [were] like, ‘are we gonna do healing this year?’ And even though we are having an in-person assembly, I was like yeah, let’s do it,” McClung said.
McClung said along with the students, the IT classes, the art club and the agriculture classes have helped with the project.
“We kind of start planning at the beginning of the year,” McClung said.
Last year the Healing Field focused on the war in Vietnam, this year the project is focusing on the war in Afghanistan with some incorporation of the war in Iraq. McClung said she plans to focus on a different war each year.
Students did research on the veterans, helped decorate the field, made luminaries to be lit, will assist in the Veterans Day assembly — including reading poems written by soldiers in Afghanistan.
“They also made luminary bags for their own veteran,” McClung said. “We put those out on the night of the ninth too. We’ll line the walk with those, that way they can have their own veterans part of it.”
McClung said she tries to let the kids be as involved as possible.
“They can all have like their own piece of it, I want them to. So it’s theirs, not the school’s,” McClung said.
The students have placed 2,465 flags representing the number of veterans who gave their lives during the time the United States was in Afghanistan and 281 larger flags will be placed to honor the Ohio veterans who passed in Afghanistan and Iraq with a large sign listing the 94 Ohioan names. Pictures of each of the most recent 13 fallen heroes from Afghanistan will also be placed in the field.
“Every slide that you’re putting down represents somebody that died, you think about that,” McClung said. “They’re getting it [and] they’re doing good.”
The field will have luminaries lit Nov. 9-10 from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. On Nov. 10, the high school will hold a Veterans Day assembly at 1 p.m., prior to the assembly a lunch will be provided for veterans in the library, provided by Vinton Baptist Church. All Gallia County veterans are welcome.
McClung said this project would not be possible without the generosity of others from helping with the project and donating pieces.
McClung sent special thanks to Dr. Denise Shockey and the S.T.E.P.S. program for donating the flags; Chad Wallace, school resource officer, who secured the lighting; Angie Petrie and the RVHS art club; Jeremy Peck and his IT classes; Dama Schultz and the RVHS National Honor Society, Chloe Haney and the RVHS Leo club, Matthew Huck and the agriculture class for hanging the sign, Vinton Baptist Church for providing lunch; Bob McCarley for providing the larger flags and Holland Signs for providing the sign of names.
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Brittany Hively is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Follow her on Twitter @britthively; reach her at (740) 446-2342 ext 2555.