MILL CREEK, Okla. (KFOR) – Names of those who gave their lives for our country are finally etched in stone, thanks to a group of Mill Creek students. But the story of the monument has an interesting beginning.
“Nothing ever happens in Mill Creek,” was the comment made by Mill Creek student, Brycen Allen, that started the two year journey.
“He tried to prove us wrong, which he did, as you can tell, and then we decided to get started on this entire project,” said Allen.
It was the sixth grade class’ social studies teacher, Gary Jones, who opened their eyes to the Mill Creek plane crash- where only one out of an 11-man crew survived a B-17 formation collision.
“They were shocked that it happened and that they hadn’t been told about it,” said Jones.
The 6th grade class was enthralled with learning who the men were and determined to honor them.
“I guess it kind of ignited a spark in all of us,” said Angelina Patrick, another student in the class. “Like, we honored men that haven’t been honored.”
The class decided on a monument, then began fundraising.
From selling cookies and t-shirts, to receiving donations from the community, the class worked hard for two years.
They even went in search of fallen debris where the crash happened.
“It’s the first time in my life I’ve ever allowed kids to carry machetes on a bus,” said Jones. “Machetes and metal detectors and shovels. So we went on an excavation project, if you will, and I bet we probably walked five or six miles that day”
They didn’t find anything, but their faith in finding information on the men didn’t waver.
“We’ve called newspaper offices, funeral homes, cemeteries, VFWs, American Legion Posts all over the country trying to find out where these men were from and family members,” said Julie Kirkpatrick, 7th and 8th grade teacher at Mill Creek. “It’s been an interesting two year journey.”
After two years of hard work and dedication, the students reached their goal: A monument dedicated to the men now stands in Mill Creek.
The class held a ceremony with over 300 people in attendance, with family members of the fallen there from across the United States.
“There was a bunch of tears, but happy tears,” said Brighton Lanier, a Mill Creek student in the class.
The class’ original goal was to have the monument ready by the time they graduated high school. They achieved that goal early, by the time they graduated 8th grade.