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West Virginia Veteran Shares Inspirational Story to Students

"I remember when I was sitting in the gymnasium like these kids are today, not knowing exactly what I wanted to do when I grow up," said Summerlin. "My hope is to help them to start dreaming about future endeavors they want to pursue."

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - There was a sense of patriotism at one Berkeley County Middle School on Monday, as a West Virginia veteran spoke to the students about his inspirational story.

Former U.S. Marine James Summerlin of Morgantown, W.Va., is the author of Freedom Run; a book that chronicles his journey where he walked across the country raising funds and awareness for wounded veterans.

On Monday, he was at Spring Mills Middle School to speak about his cause.  

"I remember when I was sitting in the gymnasium like these kids are today, not knowing exactly what I wanted to do when I grow up," said Summerlin. "My hope is to help them to start dreaming about future endeavors they want to pursue." 

Not just students, but veterans from the area came to hear Summerlin. The former marine talked about how he tried to reach out to vets around the country during his journey. He also told the audience about Operation Welcome Home, which is a group he supports that helps soldiers returning home from service.

"I know what it means to have people say thank you for your service," said Summerlin. "I wanted to make sure that I was able to give that back to those who are serving today by stopping in recruiting stations, Army National Guard facilities. If I ran by, I would stop in and let them know they were appreciated in what I was doing to honor them." 

"We want them to understand the sacrifices that the military, service men, women made for our country," said Nancy Melonas, assistant principal of Spring Mills Middle School. "We are the home of the Patriots, so we definitely want to instill that patriotism in our students."

Students at the school said they were grateful for the services of Summerlin and the people who serve our country. 

"My dad is a veteran, he was in the Coast Guard," said Eric Cruciani, an eighth grader at Spring Mills Middle School. "My grandfather was a veteran, he was in World War II, I have a lot of appreciation, and I’m glad what they do for our country."  

"I have a great appreciation for them, especially since my dad is in the military, so it's a big thing to me and my family and I appreciate everything they have done for us,” said Lauren Riner, an eighth grader at Spring Mills Middle School.  

This week students and staff members are encouraged to donate to Operation Welcome Home. The amount raised will be matched by Browns Funeral Home of Martinsburg, an organization who sponsored the assembly. 

About 800 students and staff along with local veterans attended the assembly.


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