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State makes five more local schools Military Flagships
military flagship school
State Schools Superintendent Richard Woods, left, congratulates Joseph Martin Elementary Principal Kevin VanHouten on becoming a Military Flagship School. Photo by Pat Donahue

Nearly every school in Liberty County is now a Military Flagship school, after five more received the designation Wednesday.

Liberty Elementary School and Liberty County High School were honored in the afternoon, while dignitaries visited Lewis Frasier Middle School, Taylors Creek Elementary and Joseph Martin Elementary in the morning.

State Superintendent Richard Woods noted the number of schools in the Liberty County School System that are now a Military Flagship school.

“We don’t have a district award,” he joked.

Many of the staff and students at Joseph Martin wore purple in support of April as Month of the Military Child. Several staff members have military spouses who currently are deployed.

“This award is a testament to the unwavering commitment and dedication of our entire school community to go above and beyond in providing a supportive environment for our students and their families,” said Joseph Martin Principal Kevin VanHouten.

First grade teacher Monica Hynum recalled the reception she got at Joseph Martin after her husband left on deployment.

“When I got to school, I walked into flowers, snacks, cards and lots of hugs,” she said.

Hynum also thanked the school administration, VanHouten and Assistant Principal Benita Mitchell.

“Thank you for stopping by often to offer a smile, a pat on the back, a word of encouragement,” she said. “Thank you for being so understanding and compassionate. It is refreshing to see a genuine and sincere concern for our family.”

Hynum also expressed her gratitude to Donna Thompson, the school’s military life coordinator, and counselor Cristie Davenport. Hynum also detailed the touches and kindness shown to her children as they went to Joseph Martin.

“Words never will describe how blessed we are to have you,” she said. “You have hugged and wiped my tears. We have celebrated victories and happy occasions and you have consistently given that support.”

In reciting the aphorism that it takes a village to raise a child, Hynum said, “I have found my village.”

Woods, who visited each of the schools to deliver their Military Flagship banner, said he too is a military child, as his father served in the Navy. His family moved from Virginia to Hawaii and points between during his father’s Navy career.

“I remember it would be the middle of the school year and all of a sudden Uncle Sam decided my dad needed to move,” he said.

Woods said for military families, especially the parents, making sure their children are secure in school is paramount. He added military families talk and trade notes on communities and schools.

“Their primary concern is their children, that their children are going to be looked after, day in and day out,” Woods said. “I appreciate Liberty County for making that transition easy, for making that place where they can get a good education for however long they are here.

“We want to make sure we continue to support our young people and support our military families.”

Van Houten harkened back to his move to Liberty County in 1977 as a military child.

“I remember how challenging it was for me to make new friends and to fit in,” he said. “Receiving the Military Flagship is an acknowledgement of our efforts and a reaffirmation of our core values as a school community. It reflects our commitment to create a supportive and inclusive environment for our military families to be welcomed, understood and embraced.”

Teacher Monica Hynum
Teacher Monica Hynum
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