PILOT MOUNTAIN — For school officials, Veterans Day seemed an appropriate time to highlight a small gesture honoring “heroes” in society.
“It’s a small gesture which helps us to teach our students of the sacrifices of members of the military, veterans and first responders,” Dr. Tracey Lewis, Pilot Mountain Middle School principal, said of a special parking sign at the school.
Lewis said the sign, which reads “U.S. Hero Parking Only: Veterans, Active Duty, Police Force, Firefighters and EMS,” was placed at the school in September. It was the brainchild of assistant principal Jared Jones.
“Our veterans, active duty military and emergency service personnel have made and continue to make immeasurable sacrifices so that we can continue enjoying the freedoms that this great country has to offer,” explained Jones. “This is a very small token of appreciation to them and a constant reminder to our students, parents and staff that we value and appreciate the contributions of our real U.S. heroes.”
Lewis said staff at the school worked with the Surry County Schools maintenance staff, who made and installed the sign. The project hit home for some in the maintenance department, which produced a sign that turned out even nicer than Jones had envisioned.
“Putting this sign up was very meaningful to me. This is the first sign I have put up like this, and I was very proud to do so,” said maintenance employee Mike Utt. “I have two nephews who decided to serve our country. One is in the Army and the other is in the Marines. My wife, family and I just celebrated her nephew retiring from the Navy, so this sign was a project that was special to me and that I will never forget.”
“It has been well received,” said Lewis. “We have gotten a lot of questions and positive feedback.”
The principal said it has been unifying for some of the staff at the school, including those who have family members serving on active duty, a school resource officer and a teacher who served.
“This is very personal for me because I have two young men in my family who made that choice to serve our country as United States Marine Corps. This sign and parking spot is just a small token of admiration and appreciation for those men and women who sacrifice for us daily,” said Kelly Elliott, Pilot Middle finance officer.
What’s more, it serves to aid the school in its most important mission — to educate the next generation about the world that awaits.
“Students have asked questions about it,” explained Lewis. “It creates that teachable moment for our staff.”
Lewis said when a student asks a question regarding the sign, it affords that staff member the opportunity to explain the sacrifices of the “heroes” in society.
“We want to instill that sense of pride and respect in our students, and we want them to understand the sacrifices of our veterans, military personnel and emergency personnel,” said Lewis. “They have sacrificed years of their lives to protect our freedoms.”
“We think this can go a long way in helping our students understand those sacrifices.”
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.