ASHEVILLE, N.C. — Buncombe County Schools lost one of its own on April 11, 2006, when Sgt. Kenneth Dale Hess was killed while serving in Iraq.
Hess was a member of the 4th Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team of Fort Wainwright, Alaska. He was born in Asheville and attended A.C. Reynolds High School. His father is Terry Hess, senior supervisor of Buncombe County Schools’ transportation department.
“When it happened, the school community was just overwhelming,” Hess said. “I have never seen the like of cards we received in the mail, e-mails, gifts. Even though we have over 4,000 employees, you would be surprised how close and caring the system is.”
At that time, the transportation department was the only district facility lacking a flag pole. But the death of Sgt. Hess made the department’s staff aware of the need to display their patriotism.
“Our hearts went out to Terry and his family,” said Harold Laflin, transportation director. “You hear about young men who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in giving their lives for our country, but it really doesn’t hit home until it’s someone that you actually know.”
With the opening of the district’s new maintenance department facility, the transportation department inherited the old facility’s flag pole.
After learning that the transportation department wanted to install a planter around the flag pole and a plaque to honor Sgt. Hess, Boy Scout Russell Brown Jr. volunteered as his Eagle Scout leadership service project.
Russell and the other scouts in his troop constructed a memorial landscape that consists of a 9-foot-diameter brick planter filled with shrubbery and flower bulbs around the flag pole.
In a ceremony held Jan. 17, the plaque was installed and the flag pole and landscape were dedicated in remembrance of Sgt. Hess and his service to the country.
“The flag pole and the plaque that’s on the pole, to me, is one of the greatest things we could have done,” Hess said, “because that plaque and that pole will be there when I’m gone, and my son will not be forgotten.”