Veterans give life lessons to Wilmington middle-schoolers


Pay visit to Wilmington youths

US Marine Sgt. Maj. Harold Overstreet (ret.) spoke to students of Rodger O. Borror Middle School during a special meet and greet on Friday in the Wilmington High School band room.


Veteran and singer/songwriter Sal Gonzalez shows his prosthetic leg to the students and tells them they can accomplish anything.


John Hamilton | News Journal

Eighth-grader Jalen Bledsoe gets some love from Jared Ashley and the other Operation Cherrybend visitors. Bledsoe’s mother is currently serving in the U.S. military.


John Hamilton | News Journal

Eighth-grader Jalen Bledsoe gets some love from Jared Ashley and the other Operation Cherrybend visitors. Bledsoe’s mother is currently serving in the U.S. military.


John Hamilton | News Journal

The Operation Cherrybend visitors and the eighth-graders who wrote to the veterans to show their support.


John Hamilton | News Journal

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.

US Marine Sgt. Maj. Harold Overstreet (ret.) spoke to students of Rodger O. Borror Middle School during a special meet and greet on Friday in the Wilmington High School band room.
http://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2017/09/web1_DSC_0106-1.jpgUS Marine Sgt. Maj. Harold Overstreet (ret.) spoke to students of Rodger O. Borror Middle School during a special meet and greet on Friday in the Wilmington High School band room.

Veteran and singer/songwriter Sal Gonzalez shows his prosthetic leg to the students and tells them they can accomplish anything.
http://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2017/09/web1_DSC_0129-1.jpgVeteran and singer/songwriter Sal Gonzalez shows his prosthetic leg to the students and tells them they can accomplish anything. John Hamilton | News Journal

Eighth-grader Jalen Bledsoe gets some love from Jared Ashley and the other Operation Cherrybend visitors. Bledsoe’s mother is currently serving in the U.S. military.
http://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2017/09/web1_DSC_0147-1.jpgEighth-grader Jalen Bledsoe gets some love from Jared Ashley and the other Operation Cherrybend visitors. Bledsoe’s mother is currently serving in the U.S. military. John Hamilton | News Journal

Eighth-grader Jalen Bledsoe gets some love from Jared Ashley and the other Operation Cherrybend visitors. Bledsoe’s mother is currently serving in the U.S. military.
http://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2017/09/web1_DSC_0151-1.jpgEighth-grader Jalen Bledsoe gets some love from Jared Ashley and the other Operation Cherrybend visitors. Bledsoe’s mother is currently serving in the U.S. military. John Hamilton | News Journal

The Operation Cherrybend visitors and the eighth-graders who wrote to the veterans to show their support.
http://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2017/09/web1_DSC_0157-1.jpgThe Operation Cherrybend visitors and the eighth-graders who wrote to the veterans to show their support. John Hamilton | News Journal
Pay visit to Wilmington youths