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Fallen Alumni Honored With New Monument

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June 13, 2011 by wcobserver

Photo by Timothy D. Dennis - Slayd Harney, (L-R), Brian Velasco, Jeremy Collins and Brett Vaughn participated in the dedication of a Hero’s Stone that honors three of Greenland High School alumni who died while serving others. The stone will be permanently displayed east of the ticket booth at Josh Ramey Field at Greenland High School.

By Timothy D Dennis

GREENLAND- Students, school faculty, community members, law-enforcement officials and representatives from all branches of the military gathered on the afternoon of Friday, May 25, to honor three of Greenland’s fallen sons with the dedication of an outdoor stone monument.

The Heroes’ Stone, a monolith etched with the names of the fallen, was placed about 10 feet east of the ticket booth at Jonathan Ramey Field at Greenland High School. Most attendees crowded alongside the field between the bleachers and the east end zone.

Three names were etched upon the monument: Army Sgt. Sanford James Ledbetter was killed in action on August 27, 1969 while serving in Vietnam; Jerry Wayne Ramey of the West Fork Volunteer Fire Department was electrocuted and died on November 3, 1999 while fighting a house fire; Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Richard Rees Penny was killed on May 6, 2010 while serving in Afghanistan. All three men were graduates of Greenland High School.

Michael Huber, who moved to Greenland in 2001, spearheaded the monument project. He convinced people to donate their time, money or expertise to help honor the sacrifices made by each fallen son. As a former Marine, Huber was committed to help honor Penny’s memory. Though the two were not close friends, all Marines consider other Marines as brothers, Huber said.

“I actually started on this right after Richard died,” Huber said. When it actually first started out, it was just going to be a stone for Richard.”

Greenland already had memorial cabinets for some of its fallen sons in the high school gymnasium. A cabinet containing Penny’s medals is to be placed in the gym with the other memorial cabinets, but the Penny family wanted an outside memorial. The gymnasium is closed to the public much of the year and Richard played football instead of basketball, Huber said, calling Penny “a monster on the field.”

But people who had heard of Huber’s plan soon suggested that Ledbetter’s and Ramey’s names also be included on the memorial. The addition of Ledbetter’s name was suggested first, but the addition of Ramey’s name made the stone more than merely a monument for Greenland’s fallen soldiers. Not only were these three men Greenland alumni, but also they had died while serving their community — local or larger.

“Heroes are all around us,” said Bill Groom, Greenland mayor. “One characteristic they usually share is they’re givers. They’re enablers. They make the ​people around them better. That’s a high compliment, and all three of these men displayed the same thing: they were heroes.”

Groom was among a handful of speakers at the event. Huber recited a poem he penned, titled “For the Fallen.”
“Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them,” he said.

Air Force Brig. Gen. H.D. McCarty was the main speaker at the dedication.

“The worst wound of all is being forgotten,” McCarty said. “We’re here to remember these three young men. [If] we don’t link them to a greater purpose than what they were, they’re just men who are gone, and their hearts will broken only to those in the family.”

Rev. Eric Howerton of the First Baptist Church of Greenland delivered the invocation and benediction.

“Lord we thank you that there is no greater love than to lay down a life for a friend, and these men have done that,” Howerton prayed.

Charles Cudney, Greenland schools superintendant, delivered opening and closing remarks.

“I never worked for a school that has done a better job of recognizing this kind of service — walking in our gym and seeing that recognition,” Cudney said. “This theatre in the round sends the message that a thousand pages couldn’t write.”

The monument was made possible entirely through donations. Schwartz Stone of Springdale donated the stone, and Tune Concrete of Fayetteville donated the cement for the monument base. The stone etching was paid for with money donations, and Greenland High School shop students set the stone in the ground.

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