Many children their age enjoyed a holiday away from school on Nov. 11, but a group of girls from Troutman Baptist Church learned the reason behind the day off.
The girls went to the Salisbury National Cemetery the morning of Nov. 11 and put specially painted rocks on the graves of some of the veterans.
This is an annual tradition that started four years ago, said leader Marcia Perrell.
A member of the church, Dale Wilson, served in Vietnam and lost both legs and one arm in combat. His wife, Linda, heard about the project, called Hero Rocks, and brought the idea to Troutman Baptist.
“We thought it was a real nice project,” Perrell said. “Since we are so close to the National Cemetery, we decided we’d be able to do that.”
Some of the girls in the Troutman Baptist Church Girls in Action program painted “Hero Rocks” that were placed on the graves of veterans at the Salisbury National Cemetery on Nov. 11. On the front row, from left are Emma Hutchens, Quincy Sherrill and Emma McMullen; back row, Lily Landis, Kaitlyn Landis, Kaite Dickinson and Grace Hutchens.
She said it is a great way for the girls to learn about the role veterans play in the nation and to show gratitude for their service.
Perrell said the last three years, when the girls have placed the rocks on graves, they’ve come across family members who are visiting on Veterans Day.
Many of the families are overwhelmed, Perrell said. “One lady could not even talk, she was so touched,” she said.
The pastor at Troutman Baptist, Steve Kramm, said he is proud of the girls and the adult leaders. He said they are practicing Christ-like ideals in being grateful and paying tribute to others.
As the father of two sons, Ethan and Ben, who are in the National Guard, Kramm said this is a personal project for him.
Kaitlyn Landis and Katie Dickinson went to the cemetery for their second year.
While neither may totally grasp the significance of honoring the veterans, both said they are learning valuable lessons.
“It teaches me to be nice to everybody,” Kaitlyn, a third grader, said.
Katie, who is in the fourth grade, said it feels good to pass out the rocks. This year, the girls will also be honoring a church member who is now in Hospice care, David Morgan. For the past three years, Morgan has accompanied the girls to put one of the rocks on his wife Jessie’s grave.
Perrell said Morgan, who is a veteran, was in the thoughts of the girls as they traveled to Salisbury on Nov. 11.
The rocks, each painted red, white and blue with the word “Hero” on the front, are a project that takes a couple of days to complete but the memories created for family members and the girls are longer lasting, Kramm said.
“It is a Christ-like attitude to show respect for those that paid the sacrifice of serving their country,” he said.
The members of the Troutman Baptist Church Girls in Action group are: First graders – Emma Hutchens, Lily Landis, Quincy Sherrill and Emma McMullen; second-graders, Addison Lippard and Abby Sharpe; third-graders, Grace Hutchens and Kaitlyn Landis; four-graders Katie Dickinson, Rhylie Keller, GraceAnn Patrick and Trinity Tevepaugh; and fifth-graders, Rachel Adkins and Everette Sherrill. The leaders are Kimberly Benfield, Misty Hutchens, Terry Lyons, Marcia Perrell and Andrea Sherrill.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This story originally appeared Nov. 8 on the Statesville Record & Landmark website.)