HUDSON — Members of an Ohio Army National Guard Unit based at the 1st Sgt. Robert Pinn Armory on Allen Road in Stow are among the few such units in the state to have been adopted by a school.
Hudson High School was recently named a Purple Star School by the Ohio Department of Education for its work with military families within the district, including its “adoption” of H Co.,134 Brigade Support Battalion, about five years ago, and its ongoing support of the unit and military families in general.
Formerly the 737th Support Co., the unit was re-designated last September as part of a U.S. Army force restructuring process, said Stephanie Beougher, public information officer with the Ohio National Guard. She said the mission of the 140-member unit remains to provide logistical support in the form of food, fuel and transportation to the 1st Bn., 145th Armored Regiment.
Beougher said the company was last deployed to Europe in 2004-05 to support U.S. Air Force base security missions and is presently preparing for its annual training exercise.
A Purple Star school will receive the designation for two years. After two years, the school must reapply. The Purple Star emblem was selected because the color purple symbolizes support for military families.
School officials said the district works hard to support military families.
“We want to make sure our military families know they have a partnership with our school district and we will continue to do all we can to support their students and families if and when needed,” said Principal Brian Wilch.
The Purple Star designation is a source of pride, said School Board President David Zuro.
“This award recognizes our school's commitment to students and families connected to our nation's military. This is one small way we have of showing our appreciation for their service to our country,” he said.
District spokesperson Sheryl Sheatzley credits the USO with initiating the high school’s support.
“It was introduced to us by the USO and is called the USO Adopt a Unit Program,” Sheatzley said. “We are the only school district in Northeast Ohio that is a sponsor of this program.”
While the schools support for military families includes an assigned liaison, online resources and other support specifically earmarked for military families, the district’s largest event is a holiday dinner, Sheatzley said.
“This event is attended by the soldiers and their family members,” she said. “We typically host between 200 to 250 family members on our campus, but we have hosted as many as 300.”
She said middle school students pack candy bags for each family, high school students run children's games, crafts, and interact with the families, the Hudson High School Vocal Impact Group performs and students and staff prepare and serve food.
“One of our kitchen staff has volunteered her time to be there to help us manage the food and serving at the middle school, and our middle school custodians are amazing in setting up and helping with the event,” she added. “We have also packed bags for training missions and helped raise funds for their family support efforts. In return, the unit helps us with our Veterans Day programs and Military Night at the Stadium.”
Marissa Shonk, the Family Readiness Leader for the 737th Army National Guard Forward Support Co., said members are grateful for the support.
“This partnership is great because it allows the family members to sit back and enjoy their time together when they may otherwise need to be serving the soldiers. The school often fundraises and provides meals and extra goodies so that the families don’t need to provide for themselves and Hudson also always puts on an entertaining show for us, which is so fun,” Shonk said.
Shonk said the family readiness group consists of family and friends of soldiers serving in the unit.
“While we do our best to support our men and women uniform, we try not to forget or overlook the families who are serving as well,” Shonk said. “We try to host several fundraisers each year to support care packages, parties and providing meals for the unit. In the past we have sold mum plants, T-shirt’s, cups, mugs and had bake sales.
“I would encourage anyone outside of military life that wants to get involved to reach out to a local army unit, the USO or even directly to Sheryl at Hudson to try and get plugged in somewhere. We can’t put a price on how much love and kindness Hudson schools have shown our soldiers and families. They hold a very special place in our ability to serve well.”
Purple Star awardees receive a special Purple Star recognition to display in their buildings. The Purple Star Advisory Board, formed by the Ohio Departments of Education, Higher Education, Veterans Services and Adjutant General, helps decide eligibility.
“Ohio takes great pride in its military families and we value and appreciate the sacrifices and commitment they make. Our schools are a fundamental part of our effort to support these families,” said Ohio state schools Superintendent Paolo DeMaria.
According to the department of education, there are approximately 34,000 children in Ohio with one or more parents serving in the military. This includes the children of active duty, reserve and Ohio National Guard members. Some of these children will attend six to nine different schools throughout their K-12 educational experiences. In addition to changing schools often, a student can be affected by a parent’s deployment.
Reporter April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @AprilKHelms_RPC