Lawmakers donate U.S. flag to OMS ‘Freedom Circle’

Posted 4/9/17


State Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, is the latest to contribute to Ocoee Middle School’s “Freedom Circle” project.

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Lawmakers donate U.S. flag to OMS ‘Freedom Circle’



State Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, is the latest to contribute to Ocoee Middle School’s “Freedom Circle” project.

On Friday, Bell presented the school with a new American flag which will eventually fly in the4 school courtyard designed to honor U.S. veterans.

Bell said the donation was made on behalf of all of Bradley County’s state legislators, including state Reps. Dan Howell and Kevin Brooks and state Sen. Todd Gardenhire.

“It’s to honor the school and one of our military veterans,” Bell said. “It’s something that we try to do, to make presentations like this to schools to promote patriotism and support for our veterans.” 

While planning the presentation, he and Ocoee Middle Principal Ron Spangler also decided to honor a local veteran with the flag donation. The chosen honoree was Donald Harris, a U.S. Navy veteran whose ship was involved in missions to Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

Harris is also the grandfather of two Ocoee Middle students, Luke and Ruby Anziano. Both students said they were proud of their grandfather and how their school has an emphasis on honoring veterans.

Harris called being recognized with the donation “a great honor,” though he pointed out there are others who may be just as deserving.

“We never miss an opportunity to recognize our veterans and to show our young people the kind of respect we should have for our veterans,” Spangler said.

One opportunity the school seized was creating “Freedom Circle” in late 2013. The court

yard, which stands near the school’s main entrance, features a large American flag surrounded by flags representing all the military branches, which were donated by a group from North Cleveland Baptist Church.

Below the flags is an area paved with bricks featuring the names and service information of area veterans. The school is continuing to sell the bricks for a $40 donation.

In addition to the courtyard, Ocoee Middle boasts events, like an annual Veterans Day breakfast which teaches students about veterans and honors those who have served.

“I think it’s really cool how our school does this,” Ruby Anziano said.

Bell added such efforts by schools are important, because students today need to know about the sacrifices military personnel have made to protect the country.

He noted it is difficult for children to gain a respect for veterans if adults never go out of their way to teach them about what it means to be a veteran.

Bell also pointed out that, while many might think of older men when they think of veterans, there are actually men and women in their early 20s who are leaving the service every day. This means people who have served in the military, some of them seriously risking life and limb, are continuing to settle back into civilian life in communities like Cleveland.

“It sort of makes chills run over you to think of all the things those in the service did and continue to do,” Harris said. “I had fun with some things I got to do, but there are many who make incredible sacrifices.” 


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