Grand Ledge Public Schools held a ceremony for two alumni who are fallen soldiers, unveiling decals that honored them on two school buses. American flags were hung in front of the decals until members of the U.S. Army took them down and folded them.
GRAND LEDGE, Mich. — To honor alumni who are fallen soldiers, Grand Ledge Public Schools held a ceremony on May 30 for two former students who died in the war in Afghanistan, unveiling memorial decals on two of its buses that honor the students.
Grand Ledge alumni Senior Airman Jason Plite (Class of 1999) and Specialist Bradley Rappuhn (Class of 2004) were honored in the event.
John Legus, transportation supervisor, Grand Ledge Public Schools, said he got the initial idea from a story he read in School Bus Fleet magazine about a school district conducting a similar event.
“[In the story] they said it was the perfect way to honor those soldiers, and Grand Ledge is a tight community,” he explained. “When I read that article, I thought ‘it’s the right thing to do [for] the two soldiers that died defending our freedom in Afghanistan.’ It’s a way for us all to reflect and never forget.”
However, he added, the transportation department — technicians, drivers and office staff — developed the idea for it together and began planning the event about a year and a half ago.
“[We are all] emotionally connected and proud to be a part of this,” he explained.
The memorial decals reference the school slogan and mascot, “We are the Comets,” and are featured on the second windows of the buses.
The memorial decals say, “Our fallen comets still burn bright,” referencing the school slogan and mascot, “We are the Comets,” and are featured on the second windows of the buses.
“By law, that’s where we’re allowed to have them,” Legus said. “Our technicians went through training so we could make sure they are put on perfectly.”
By the start of the 2014-2015 school year, decals will be featured on every bus. To keep the costs low, one of the bus drivers did the graphic design for them and the district worked out a deal with the printing company.
Grand Ledge’s middle school band kicked off the event by playing “The Star Spangled Banner.” American flags were hung in front of the decals on the windows until members of the U.S. Army took the flags down and folded them to reveal the decals.
Legus said that to ensure the event was respectful, planning entailed researching the direction that the flag had to be in when it was hanging and having copies of the decals framed for the mother of each soldier.
Since family members had already been through dealing with losing their loved ones, the event was kept short, at about 15 minutes.
“It was very difficult speaking at this event. It was hard to look at the mothers, but it was the right thing for us to do,” Legus said.
After the framed versions of the decals were presented to the mothers, the event closed with a prayer for fallen soldiers, given by one of the U.S. Army members.
“It means a lot to people and our soldiers deserve it,” Legus said. “We [also] have a lot of people in Grand Ledge [who passed away in] other wars and we like to think that this represents all of them.”