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Benton honors military

Col. Leland Bohannon, Vice Commander of the 2d Bomb Wing at Barksdale AFB, received cheers and high fives from the students at Benton Elementary School as he participated in a ceremonial lap around the school's new walking track Tuesday afternoon.

The 9/11 terrorist attacks that shook the nation 12 years ago still lingers fresh in the minds of those who were called to serve and protect their country.

In observance of that tragic day, the Benton community honored local service men and women with a Heroes Walk Wednesday evening. Residents from the Northwest Louisiana War Veterans Home were the guests of honor. Four World War II veterans, two of whom are 95-years-old, were the center of attention, shaking hands and mingling with those as they walked the track.

The walk took place on the newly dedicated Heroes Walking Track at Benton Elementary School. Students, faculty and distinguished guests gathered at the school Tuesday afternoon for a ceremonial ribbon cutting and memorial balloon release.

Opening the new track coincided with Benton Elementary’s “Helping Hearts One Week at a Time” community service week. Principal Norma Anderson said although her school is in the northern part of the parish, they are fortunate to have a community partnership with Barksdale Air Force Base.

Tuesday’s grand opening the culmination of a six year effort to get a walking track at Benton Elementary School. Through various donations and fundraising efforts, the school was able to raise more than $24,000 to make their dream a reality.

Col. Leland Bohannon, Vice Commander of the 2d Bomb Wing at BAFB, said he admired the school’s dedication and perseverance to the project.

“This is a great example of what hard work can do and it sends a great message to the students,” Bohannon said.

Despite a showing of military and police dignitaries, students were told there are a lot of things that make a hero and it’s much more than wearing a uniform.

“Each one has been called and has taken an oath to honor, defend and to serve our nation, communities and towns,” Bohannon said. “This week, we remember a lot of those men and women who served when our nation needed them most. Those brave acts of service are what make a hero.”

Superintendent D.C. Machen called the walking track a wonderful tribute to the local, state and national service men and women who serve communities, just like Benton, every day.

“The hard work and dedication by the parents and members of this community make them heroes to this school,” Machen added.

Bohannon encouraged students to look beyond the traditional heroic figures to find the hero in the those around them every day, such as school officials and themselves.

“Age doesn’t set a limit to who you can look up to,” he explained. “Children are often underestimated in their abilities to be good community servants, but this track sends a much bigger message.”

A donation of $1 was requested to participate in Wednesday’s walk, with all proceeds benefiting the Northwest Louisiana War Veterans Home in Bossier. Benton Elementary students also spent the week making “thank you” cards to distribute at the Northwest Louisiana War Veterans Home.

Benton Elementary was there to lend a helping hand through the new parish-wide initiative implemented this school year by the Bossier school district. “Helping Hearts One Week At A Time” emphasizes community service that not only shows appreciation, but as the first step to making a bigger difference.

School officials say they are aligning the project with the quote, “it’s good to be blessed, but it’s better to be a blessing.” For more information, visit the Bossier Schools website at www.bossierschools.org

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Sean Green is managing editor of the Bossier Press-Tribune.