Some things “just need to be done,” believes Fountain-Fort Carson High School senior Rachel Johnson, who graduates Saturday.
That’s why she seemingly moved mountains to complete an idea that she and an agricultural teacher came up with in September, before her academic career in Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8 ended.
Where others saw a bunch of rocks and a sign advertising events in front of Fountain-Fort Carson High School, Johnson saw potential.
“I got a piece of paper and started sketching,” she said. “I wanted to do something special here, and it just came out of my brain.”
Johnson’s plan to beautify the school and honor the military by creating a Memorial Garden at the entryway of the school — where about 72 percent of students are affiliated with the military — culminated Thursday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
A large crowd of students, staff, veterans, active-duty military and district dignitaries gathered in front of the school for the event, which the Junior ROTC kicked off by presenting the colors.
“We live in a community that is so unlike any other,” Johnson said. “I have witnessed the sacrifices these men, women and families have made.”
The Memorial Garden features an aluminum stand holding a depiction of an American flag, two large metal silhouettes of saluting soldiers, and landscaping including fruit trees, bushes roses and flowers.
Junior Nickolas Morrell volunteered to make the aluminum sign with the flag, using welding skills he learned in class.
“It’s an honor, with it being in front of the school and part of a memorial,” he said, adding that his father is retired from the military.
Joseph Sparks, also a junior, put a lot of work into crafting the two steel soldiers, which required making two of each piece and matching them to look the same in front and back.
“I knew it was something I really wanted to do because both of my grandfathers served in the military,” he said.
A plaque with the words, “All Gave Some — Some Gave All,” along with names of local businesses that donated plants and materials, is attached to the front of the garden.
Johnson envisioned planting a rose garden to honor past, present and future military members, but as often happens, dipping a toe in a swimming pool ended up with her swimming in the ocean, she said.
“I wanted to leave a meaningful legacy and honor military men and women who have made sacrifices, including the ultimate sacrifice,” she said, reading the names of four graduates who died in recent years while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and on other assignments.
“You are not forgotten,” she said.
In the nation’s era of division, Johnson said, “We will wear our uniforms and salute and fight and respect the culture of unity, community and responsibility.”
While Johnson’s family is not connected to the military, she was born and raised in Fountain and in the fall will head to Colorado State University in Fort Collins to study horticulture.
“I hope military students and families realize they are loved and appreciated here,” she said.
This article has been updated from its original version to reflect that student Joseph Sparks created the two soldier silhouettes.