Veterans Memorial Garden Rededicated At Hocking College

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The rededication of the Staff Sgt. Curtis A. Oakes Veterans Memorial Garden at Hocking College honored not only Oakes, but those who served alongside him. 

Oakes, a graduate of Alexander High School and Hocking College, was killed in action on Nov. 29, 2010, along with five fellow servicemen. Each one now has his name displayed on a marker in the garden. 

What began as a lone oak tree in honor of Oakes has taken a step toward expanding with additional landscape work completed this year. The oak tree still stands in the center of the garden in front of Light Hall. Work on the garden was completed by the landscape management program and the campus green staff. 

"We are proud to gather to honor our nation's heroes," said Valerie Oakes, the mother Curtis Oakes. "Thank you for remembering our heroes." 

Kaye Jordan, the mother of Private 1st Class Austin Garrett Staggs, who was killed alongside Oakes, also expressed her thanks to those attending for honoring the veterans. 

"We are here to finish their mission they could not," said Jordan. Jordan also spoke of the Gold Star Families which connect the family members of fallen servicemen. 

Lt. Col. Andrew Stone, who is also the Chairman of the Hocking College Board of Trustees provided the keynote address, speaking on the intersection of the military and education in building America. 

"Beyond their military service, veterans are great students, great employees and great community members. They can suffer hardship without complaint. They are high achievers. United States military veterans built America," said Stone. "One of the most important and impactful pieces of legislation over the past 100 years is the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, commonly known as the G.I. Bill."

Stone went on to quote former President and military leader Teddy Roosevelt saying, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

"All times in history present their unique challenges. Today is no different. There are certainly challengers for our country, for our state, for our community and yes for Hocking College," Stone added. 

Stone then specifically turned his attention to his fellow brothers and sisters in arms. 

"Veterans are not complainers or critics, they are the doers of deeds. And for that we owe them our sincere gratitude," he said.  

"We salute our American heroes," said Hocking College interim president Betty Young. "We are here for our veterans. Thank you for your services and your families' service."