Forsyth Central High School sophomore Aidan Harpstrite has plans to enter the military, but before that, he wanted to do something at his school to honor those who served before him.
On Friday, a ceremony was held for the dedication of a monument recognizing Central’s faculty and former students who served in the armed forces, which Harpstrite took on as part of his Eagle Scout project as part of Boy Scout Troop 39 in Cumming.
“I wanted to take it on because I have a lot of pride in my nation and plan to join the military when I get out of college because I’ve wanted to serve as long as I can remember,” he said. “That’s what really inspired to do it is my admiration of the men and women who served in the armed forces, as well as my school spirit, my school pride and my love for Central. I wanted to give back to the school, and really that was the best way that I figured that I could.”
The granite monument stands about 4 feet high and bears the school’s logo and the inscription “In honor of the faculty and former students of Forsyth Central High School who have bravely served our nation in the armed forces.”
Harpstrite said a lot of planning went into the project, including fundraising and commissioning the work.
“I had to get together with the company that actually built the monument, Granite Creations. I had to speak to the owner, and he actually donated the piece, so that was free of charge, which was amazing,” Harpstrite said. “We were grateful for that, and it was a lot of things that came together to actually make the finished project.”
The ceremony was attended on Friday by Harpstrite’s family – including younger brother Brody, an eighth-grader at Otwell Middle School, who played the national anthem on trumpet as a member of the Forsyth County Fire Department’s honor guard carried the American flag – school officials and members of local veterans groups American Legion Post 307, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9143 and Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1030.
“I believe it’s awesome,” said Army veteran Jacob Bollinger, who graduated from Central in 2014. “The Army wasn’t my first choice out of high school; obviously, I would never tell anyone not to do it, it was great for me. To see someone from my school and my hometown to put together something like this not just for people that are in my shoes, who have served and got out, but people who want to serve after high school, I think it’s a phenomenal achievement for him and for the school itself.”
Principal Mitch Young said the school was always honored when students wanted to do Eagle Scout projects for the school but said this project was “a whole different level.”
“The meaning and depth of this monument, what it means to veterans in our school, what it means to students that may be considering going to the military and above and beyond, it just speaks volumes about Aidan and his family,” Young said.
Harpstrite said he’s been hearing a lot of excitement from the school about the monument.
“[I’ve heard] nothing but positivity, nothing but support,” he said. “Many people that I don’t personally know have reached out and said, ‘This is amazing, the greatest thing I’ve ever seen.’ The administration loves it, everybody at school that I’ve heard speak of it has loved it. A lot of positive reaction from the community.”