Formal unveiling of the new Crittenden County Veterans Wall of Honor inside Rocket Arena is planned for Tuesday, May 16 as part of a Board of Education meeting. The concept of having a lasting memorial to the community’s military veterans was initially developed by former U.S. Army Ranger and physical education teacher Denis Hodge. Art teacher Elizabeth (Kirby) Rodriguez and a few students designed and painted the American Flag mural that spans the entire west wall of the conference room at the high school gymnasium. The room is used for school and community meetings.
Initial cost of the wall of honor has been supported by donations.
Veterans can submit a form online HERE or fill one out at either the Board of Education office or The Crittenden Press. Photos should be submitted to The Crittenden Press at [email protected] . Printed photos can be brought to The Press where they will be scanned and immediately returned.
On the wall will be trading-card-sized photographs of military veterans from every branch. Anyone can nominate a veteran to have a photograph and short biographical sketch placed on the wall. From World War I to present, any veteran who was born, raised or currently living in Crittenden County qualifies to be on it.
Students are being encouraged to nominate family members. The public will also be able to suggest veteran nominees by completing a form and providing a photograph, preferably a military photo if one exists. In most cases, photos can be cropped or manipulated to highlight or enhance the individual. Paper application forms will be available at the school board office and The Crittenden Press. An electronic application will also be available at The Press Online and the school district’s website.
Rodriguez said senior Carly Towery and junior Aria Kirk helped paint the mural, which took about three weeks to complete and included around 60 hours of work.
“I was excited to have the opportunity to work on this project,” said Rodriquez, who is a CCHS graduate. “I have several family members who are currently serving, or who have served in the military, including my father, who served in the Air Force.”
Her father, Brian Kirby, is the school’s maintenance supervisor and has had a big hand in putting the entire project together.
“There are many veterans who work for our school system, and I worked with many veterans during my time as a paramedic. My EMT partner was a retired Marine,” Rodriquez added. “All of these individuals are strong, courageous men and women who have made a great impact on my life and the lives of everyone in our community. They deserve recognition for their service and sacrifice.”
Crittenden County Judge-Executive Perry Newcom said the wall is a remarkable tribute to the community’s service men and women past and present. He and other community leaders have served on a committee that helped develop the project. Other local veterans who served on the committee were John A. Hunt and Dr. Steve Crider.
“It’s a great opportunity to have a memorial like this in a high-traffic area where students and the community can see it and enjoy it. And maybe it will start a conservation,” Newcom said.
The judge noted that the school district has been instrumental in showing appreciation to veterans and saluting the military with its annual Veterans Day Ceremony at the gymnasium and with special recognitions at ball games and other events. Newcom, who served in the U.S. Air Force, hopes the mural will motivate others to serve their community and country.
Hodge, who teaches a military history class, said the wall is a fitting gesture of respect to the men and women of this community who have given much of themselves.
“We just felt like there wasn’t anything, especially at the school, that represented our veterans and displayed an appropriate tribute to their service,” Hodge said. “Look at all of the men and women from here who have served. Per capita, Crittenden County has to have one of the highest rates of service in the country.”
Members of all branches of service will be eligible for recognition on the wall, including the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Space Force. Photos and bios will be protected by plastic sleeves that will be screwed to the wall in no specific order. Each veteran or active duty service man or woman will be able to have a photograph along with their name, rank, company, service period and substantial honors or medals including in their bio.
Contributions to continue expanding and maintaining the Wall of Honor are being accepted by the school district.