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100-foot-long mural depicts Americans' sacrifice

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    The Spirit of America’s Story — The Wall is on display Monday at Highland Middle School.

    HALEE HEIRONIMUS / GAZETTE

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    Patricia Sexton, co-founder of The Spirt of America's Story, introduces the program by telling Highland Middle School students Monday about the death of her husband who served in Vietnam War.

    HALEE HEIRONIMUS / GAZETTE

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    Ron Smith, president and co-founder of The Spirit of America, gave a 40 minute presentation to Highland Middle School students Monday about the wars that make up American history. In between his presentation, Smith would have students answer questions.

    HALEE HEIRONIMUS / GAZETTE

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22557652

The Spirit of America’s Story — The Wall is on display Monday at Highland Middle School.

HALEE HEIRONIMUS / GAZETTE Enlarge

GRANGER TWP. — Army Sgt. David Mason Sexton died March 15, 1971, serving during the Vietnam War, just 15 minutes after his son, David Michael Sexton, was born.

“I was on the delivery table and for a brief moment I saw him (in spirit) … I saw what happened,” his widow, Patricia Sexton, said. “Later, a U.S. Army vehicle soldier comes to my door to tell me the news and I said I already knew. We were married three days shy of 11 months.

Sexton is co-founder of the Sandusky-based nonprofit The Spirit of America’s Story that visited Highland Middle School with the organization’s traveling wall Monday. She was accompanied by organization president and co-founder Ronald Smith.

The wall is a 100-foot long, full-color mural with pictures that depict the wars from 1775 to present day, including the American Revolution, American Civil War, World Wars I and II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf War, 9/11 and war on terrorism.

“I’m just one story from all the wars,” Sexton said, noting that her husband’s remains have yet to be returned. “I pray that one day I can have peace and his remains will come home to me and my son.”

Smith, a 13ᄑ year U.S. Marine Corps veteran, gave students a 40-minute history lesson by briefly walking through each war.

Students were allowed to invite family members who are veterans to listen to the presentation.

“This is great because it gives students a deeper understanding and appreciation for America’s freedom,” Smith said. “Our big thing is to get into schools and veterans halls.”

Sexton added: “The fate of the country, and our future, belongs to our youth … and the sacrifices that veterans have made throughout history have kept us from losing our freedom. I hope that students will do more reading on our country’s history.”

Charles Franchetti, sixth-grade social studies teacher, said he was contacted by district parent Jack Sliter Sr., whose son is a student at Highland High School, who advised him of The Spirit of America’s traveling wall.

“We’ve always done a Veterans Day program, but Jack Sliter said ‘you don’t want to miss this opportunity’ and we took it,” Franchetti said. “Kids can see more from a historical view where veterans fit in the timeline and how they fought through history to have what we have today.”

While American history applies more to the eighth-grade curriculum, Franchetti said the presentation gives sixth- and seventh-grade students a good introduction to future lessons.

“We do a timeline of everything from ancient history and how it connects with modern-day American history,” Franchetti said.

“We’ll follow up (today) in the classroom about the presentation.”

Making the wall

Smith and Sexton, who are owner-operator drivers at V3 Transportation in Seville, previously toured with Rolling Thunder that had a traveling wall honoring Ohio’s Vietnam POW/MIAs.

“We left the organization in November 2013 because we had a vision of creating a full-color mural traveling wall that honors all men and women in uniform service and first-responders,” Smith said.

Sexton added: “The Spirit of America honors those who have served and those who have picked up the torch and gone before us to keep our freedom.”

The 10-panel wall was digitally created using images that depicted each war, Smith said. Artist Ray Simon then painted the photos, which later were digitally transposed onto the wall.

“Each photo has its own message,” Smith said.

Sexton said audience members have told her they see spirits of the soldiers around the wall.

“People have described my husband,” Sexton said. “There are pictures that show blue orbs at the wall.”

Smith and Sexton started traveling around Ohio with the wall in April and have recently expanded their presentations nationwide. Before coming to Highland, they loaded the wall in their truck and drove to Tennessee.

“It’s been a godsend that (V3) allows us to take the wall out and work in between (travel),” Sexton said.

Today, Smith and Sexton are scheduled to present to a group in Bellevue. They then will travel to Wisconsin and back to Ohio in Mansfield.

Contact reporter Halee Heironimus at (330) 721-4012 or hheironimus@medina-gazette.com.

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