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|WM students mark Fourth of July|
As people all over the country prepare their barbecues and family gatherings for the Fourth of July holiday, two local students hope citizens will pause for a moment to pay tribute to the men and women who have fought to ensure America's freedoms.
Kristy Stewart and Bonnie Allbritton are students at Unitech Training Academy in West Monroe. Every holiday, different classes at Unitech decorate their classrooms in a friendly competition to commemorate the event.
For the Fourth of July this year, Stewart decided to do something different. With the help of Allbritton, they gathered various gear owned by local veterans and arranged a "Missing Man Table" inside the school to honor America's POW/MIAs as well as all of the men and women who fought in service of their country.
Stewart's uncle, Stephen Clampit, who retired from the Air Force, donated items for the display along with local veteran Troyce Carter, who served four tours in Vietnam.
On Monday, as they arranged the Missing Man Table, one of Unitech's newest staff members stopped to shake Stewart's and Allbritton's hands to thank them for their efforts.
He is a veteran and Stewart said he simply wanted to "thank them for not forgetting."
"That was amazing … I just started crying. I get emotional about it because a lot of time the true meaning (of the Fourth of July) is lost, and I just wanted to do something different to remember those who make our freedom possible. It means a lot to me to be able to honor those POW/MIAs, and also those who came back and are still with us today," Stewart said. "I figure this was the least I could do for the sacrifices they've made for us and our country."
The "Missing Man Table" is used during ceremonies across the country to honor soldiers still missing in action from each of the five military branches.
Stewart hopes people will take some time Friday just to reflect on the sacrifices the men and women in the United States Armed Services have made for their country.
"I know it's not supposed to be a sad, gloomy day, but you need to take time to honor those who make our freedom possible. Without them, we wouldn't have any of it," Stewart said.
Allbritton added, "I think if nothing else, people should at least stop and take time to say a solemn prayer and be grateful. Think about the other countries, and the things they go through, and we don't because they (soldiers) made it possible. People can preach patriotism all they want to, but it takes a special kind of person to be able to go and actually lay their life on the line."
The students' teacher, Jennifer Wilson, is an Army veteran. She graduated from West Monroe High School in 1984 and immediately joined the Army. She's proud her students recognize the real reason why people should celebrate the Fourth of July and the freedoms Americans enjoy.
"We wanted this Fourth of July to be more than just apple pie, barbecue and having fun with the family. We wanted to remember the soldiers, their families and the POW/MIAs. We wanted this to be about something more than just having a fun day," Wilson said.
Several local veterans talked with the students Thursday and thanked them for their desire to honor those who served their country.
"We just want to make sure that they weren't forgotten," Wilson said. "We have the Fourth of July because of the veterans."