WILMINGTON — Some of Wilmington’s middle schoolers got a special visit on Friday.
Eighth-graders from Rodger O. Borror Middle School assembled in the Wilmington High School band room and got to hear from the people they wrote to involved with Operation Cherrybend.
The visitors consisted of veterans and singer/songwriters — including Jared Ashley who, along with Beth Ellis, helped start Operation Cherrybend in 2015 — and the 12th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Harold Overstreet.
In Overstreet’s speech, he detailed his background and told them that he and others veterans are like brothers to him, regardless of branch of service.
One speaker, Sal Gonzalez, a singer/songwriter who appeared on America’s Got Talent and a Marine Corps veteran, echoed Overstreet’s sentiments and also talked about the challenges he faced after losing his leg in 2004 while serving in Iraq.
“I had been in a coma for two weeks, both my lungs had collapsed, I almost died a couple times,” Gonzalez recalled. “You have a lot of choices in life. You can choose to do a lot of things. You can choose to go cry in the corner for the rest of your life, but what good is that going to do you? So you get up, put your leg on, put your pants on two legs at a time and go get after it. It’s about how you’re going to do it.”
Gonzalez told the students a story about how a friend told him he couldn’t do some things since he was handicapped. He said that he could do anything his friend could do. His friend was a rock climber and Gonzalez went on to climb a wall with his prosthetic leg.
“If you take anything away from us visiting here today, just remember that no matter what obstacles you face in your life, you can overcome anything. You can do anything in your life if you put your mind to it,” he said.
Other speakers included another former combat veteran, Ryan Zimmerer, who also lost a leg in combat.
Former Marine sniper and musician Daniel Dean, who has appeared on National Geographic’s Ultimate Survival Alaska, told the kids to stay in good company and that the only thing keeping them from achieving was them.
Galen Griffin spoke and sang a song for the attendees.
Jared Ashley concluded the event by thanking the students for their letters and support.