Soldiers, students join forces
May 9, 2013
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- It was an icon meant to remind people of the sacrifices of Soldiers during World War II. In recent years, though, the memorial has been forgotten, masked by layers of weeds and vines growing on a nearby fence.
During the last few weeks, Soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment have been clearing away the overgrowth around Patton Field, as well as making improvements to the landscape around the battalion area. This involved restoring the monument to public view on Dixie Road.
"This past summer, we were given the Patton Field track to PT on," said Lt. Col. Eric Flesch, 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment battalion commander. "It's quite run down, but there's a contract already in place to resurface it. There's an old World War II monument in the front but, because of the rusty fence and overgrown bushes, nobody knew it was there."
Flesch first laid eyes on the Soldier memorial during his time in Basic Combat Training.
"I knew it was there because I was a private here 23 years ago and we had to clean it up for the Fourth of July," he said.
Patton Field was dedicated in 1949 as "Patton Stadium," a $197,000 construction project funded entirely by profits from the Post Exchange, according to a Nov. 4, 1949, story published in The State newspaper.
Renovations of Patton Field were only part of the battalion's recent self-help project. On April 27, students from Killian Elementary spent the day helping Soldiers renovate the green space between Dixie Road and the battalion area. It wasn't merely a beautification project, Flesch said. The area needed reinforcement to protect it from inclement weather.
"All last summer, the bank was washing into the building," he said. "We knew we had to fix this bank, so we decided to do a self-help project."
Killian Elementary is the battalion's partner school, and recently sought a letter of support from battalion command for a community outreach project, Flesch said. As luck would have it, the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment was out of cycle and already planning a self-help project Flesch said was a perfect fit for the school's life sciences program.
"We invited them out to help do some of the planting," he said.
The April 27 event not only fell between Earth Day and Arbor Day, but was also in the final week of the Month of the Military Child. Many of the students in grades K-5 at Killian Elementary are military dependents, Flesch said.
Noella Ferguson, third grade team leader at Killian Elementary, said the day's lesson plans also involved discussion about the historical significance of the trees planted that day. After the landscaping event, 125 third-grade students from the school had lunch at one of the post's dining facilities, then capped the afternoon with a discussion about palmetto trees.
The palmetto tree was added to the South Carolina state flag in 1861 in reference to Col. William Moultrie's defense of Sullivan Island against the British during the American Revolution. Moultrie's fortress was constructed by bracing sand walls with palmetto trees to help defend against British cannons.
"We're studying the Revolutionary War and how they used palmetto trees during the war," Ferguson said. "I thought it would be a good opportunity for us to come out and plant a palmetto tree. (The students are) self motivated, so we're very excited."
The landscaping project emphasized the post's green initiative. The railroad ties used to support the field and keep it from washing into the community area were recycled, as was the mulch. The field dirt used in the landscaping project was moved to the site from another location, whereas the bushes and trees were paid for through fundraising efforts and private donations.