Paige, Chase and Jaylin have a message to tell

Posted 5/3/17

Words spoken from the mouths of babes are sometimes words that should be heard the loudest, by young and old alike.

Here’s an example.

“It is an inspirational story that shows the …

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Paige, Chase and Jaylin have a message to tell

Posted

Words spoken from the mouths of babes are sometimes words that should be heard the loudest, by young and old alike.

Here’s an example.

“It is an inspirational story that shows the importance of doing what’s right. The message is, ‘Don’t be afraid to do the right thing.”

Let us repeat the latter, “... Don’t be afraid to do the right thing.”

The message comes to us — and to all within our Cleveland and Bradley County surround, as well as to a state filled with our fellow Tennesseans — from Jaylin Viviano, an eighth-grader at Lake Forest Middle School.

And soon her words will make their way to a national stage on the University of Maryland campus in College Park. Two additional young messengers will carry the same thought: Paige Frady and Chase Hagler, also eighth-graders at LFMS whose school is especially proud of all three of its young standard bearers.

For background, we refer you to the front page of last Thursday’s (April 27) edition of this newspaper. There, in a story by Cleveland Daily Banner staff writer Christy Armstrong, we introduced Jaylin, Paige and Chase, three inspiring middle school students whose creative film talents landed them first place in the Junior Group Documentary category of the Tennessee History Day competition.

The trio’s work now advances to the National History Day event in Maryland.

As exciting as the first-place award must be for the youngsters, their teachers, the middle school and the entire Bradley County School System, it is the subject matter that is most captivating. Titled “Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds: Faith, Family, Friends, Freedom,” the film tells the story of a World War II American officer whose heroic acts are credited with saving the lives of 200 fellow prisoners of war who shared a Jewish descent.

In a slice of Holocaust history — an era haunted by the murder of 7 million Jews by Adolf Hitler, bloodthirsty dictator of the Nazi regime — it was recently revealed that Edmonds refused to identify any of the 1,200 U.S. soldiers held prisoner in Stalag IXA who had Jewish heritage.

Having been ordered by his Nazi captors to send any American soldiers of Jewish descent to the prison’s center — presumably to segregate them from the rest — Edmonds is reported instead to have marched the entire group of GIs to the German commanders.

Historical accounts record that an angered German officer then confronted Edmonds with his actions, declaring that all 1,200 prisoners could not be Jews. In defiance, Edmonds is reported to have replied, “We are all Jews.”

Reportedly with a pistol held to his head, Edmonds argued the Geneva Convention did not allow captors to single out prisoners based on their religion. With no desire to kill all 1,200 American prisoners, the Nazi officer yielded to Edmonds’ protest.

Historians credit Edmonds’ actions with saving the lives of as many as 200 soldiers whose Jewish descent might have led to their murders, either in prison from the guns of German soldiers or in a Nazi gas chamber.

An East Tennessean, Edmonds and his courageous act became the subject of the brief documentary by the trio of LFMS eighth-graders.

It wasn’t easy, nor was it a work of convenience. Taking their project to unparalleled heights for students so young, they even worked through spring break in order to be finished in time for the History Day competitions.

Julie Mitchell, a Lake Forest teacher who helped the students with their task, praised their commitment to documenting a thin slice of World War II history, and one whose telling serves as a reminder of the horrors made possible by a world of intolerance.

“These students worked really hard to do research for, and create, their project,” Mitchell told our reporter. “They were extremely dedicated, and their hard work paid off.”

This year’s competition theme was an appropriate one — “Taking A Stand,” and that’s exactly what these LFMS students did in undertaking a project whose message is eternal.

Not only did the students learn from their endeavors, they also had the chance to explore what gave this “great” generation its name, and why their lessons remain relevant today.

“What he (Edmonds) did was really, really cool,” young Hagler told our newspaper. “He saved about 200 Jewish people’s lives.”

His classmate, an equally as young Frady, was just as excited about the film from her own perspective, “This was just such a neat story for us to tell, and it’s about someone from just up the road here in Tennessee.”

The award-winning documentary features numerous photographs, narration from the students and video clips of people who knew Edmonds. In Mitchell’s words, “They really went above and beyond in their studies. This was all optional, something they wanted to do.”

Surely, the heroism of Master Sgt. Roddie Edmonds is a story well worth the telling. But there’s another story here as well, one that speaks to the priceless value of a youthful generation seeking to connect with those who walked their life long before.

The national competition in Maryland will be held June 11-15. The students, and their chaperones, are currently raising funds for the trip. Online donations can be made at https://www.gofundme.com/bcs-documentary-earns-trip-to-dc. Or, donations may be made through the school.

Three eighth-graders from Lake Forest Middle School have grown far beyond their years. Today, they are the teachers.

And that’s what growing up is all about.

We congratulate young Paige, Chase and Jaylin for their dedication to a cause. But more importantly, we thank them for building bridges ... the kind whose mettle will weather the test of generational time.

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