Tifton Gazette

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January 16, 2014

Students surprise, salute Iraq veteran at JT Reddick­

TIFTON —

It’s not often that a veteran is surprised by his child’s school, rather the solider tends to surprise his child when coming home.

However, SFC Mark Driskell of Brookfield stopped by J.T. Reddick School Thursday morning to drop off a science project for his son Zachary and to have lunch with him when he was unexpectedly greeted by sixth grade students with Team Delta.

Students lined the hallway as Driskell, with his son by his side, entered the school. They saluted him and motioned a sign of thank you with their hands to show appreciation for his service and recent return home from Iraq. Also, a “welcome home” sign hung in the front entrance of the school.

Science teacher Kathy Fitzgerald said she and Social Studies teacher Julie Gunn have been teaching their students about the “freedom we enjoy because of what soldiers have done.” She said they heard about Driskell’s return home from Iraq, which was last Wednesday, and decided to do something special for him to thank him for fighting for “our freedom.”

An emotional Fitzgerald said although Driskell is retired from the Armed Forces, he still volunteers his time in Iraq to train American soldiers and friendly Iraqi troops. 

Since she has an uncle who served on the USS Minnesota, which was bombed in Pearl Harbor, she said it makes it so much more real to hear stories from veterans.

Following his surprise welcome, Driskell enjoyed lunch with his son in the school’s cafeteria. When asked about his reaction to the surprise, he said he greatly appreciated it. Zachary smiled and said he’s glad to have his father home.

To contact reporter Latasha Ford, call 382-4321.

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  • public safety awards.tif

    Pictured are the honorees of Thursday night's annual Public Safety Officer Appreciation and Awards Banquet by the Tifton Elks Lodge. Shown, from left, are Louise Spradley, who organized the banquet, Eddie Brown with the Tift County Emergency Medical Services, Sgt. Debbie Pyles with the Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College Police Department, Sgt. Bart Walker with the Omega Police Department, Officer of the Year honoree Thomas Catanzarita with the Tift County Sheriff's Office Jail Division, Deputy Jonathan Toledo with the TCSO, Brandi Conway with the Tifton-Tift County Animal Shelter, Georgia State Patrol Trooper Ben Taylor, Officer Brian Shockley with the Tifton Police Department and volunteer Firefighter Brian Fincher with the Chula Fire Department.

    LEOs and first responders honored at banquet

    A room full of local law enforcement and first responders were honored Thursday night by the Tifton Elks Lodge at their annual Public Safety Officer Appreciation and Awards Banquet for their service in the community.
    Prior to the awards being given out, Louise Spradley, who organized the banquet, welcomed everyone, and the invocation and pledge were led by the Tift County Sheriff's Office Honor Guard.

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