“Operation Fallen Hero” | A local high school teacher wants to honor fallen soldiers. Here’s how you can help.

DENHAM SPRINGS — Memorial Day is about honoring and remembering soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice. And in Livingston Parish, Denham Springs High School history teacher William Bradford is doing just that.

Bradford is helping honor 13 alumni veterans who have died in wartime conflicts by raising money to commission a statue for them and their families. Bradford, who has taught at the school for 22 years, was inspired by a special guest he invited to his class for nearly a decade.

“For the last seven or eight years, former teacher and coach Robby Spangler (has came) to speak to my classes about the Vietnam era. She lost her husband in the Vietnam War. She talks about the day she sent her husband off to war and learned about his death and just gives the kids a real-life experience, not out of a textbook, of what war looks like,” he said.

Robby Spangler (Photo provided)

Listening to Spangler’s story and seeing the pain she still feels 50 years later, Bradford set out to find other alumni veterans. He thought it would be a simple search but encountered many challenges.

“I don’t know if I was naive or what, but I figured I could just call the school board and they’ve got the records,” he said. “Unfortunately, with the 2016 flood and Denham Springs having had three different fires here at the high school, there aren’t many records here. That meant that the reserves became more cumbersome.”

After nearly giving up, he was connected to Barbara Cheney, who turned out to be the missing puzzle piece. Through her work with ‘Denham Springs, the Early Years,’ she was able to provide him with the names and graduation years of the 13 veterans who graduated from Denham Springs High School.

Bradford has created a Facebook page called ‘Operation Fallen Hero’ to honor the “valiant heroes who graduated from DSHS and died in wartime conflicts.” He hopes to have a statue built in their honor.

“We’ve already got a sculptor who’s going to be commissioned to do the work. And we’ve got a price of around $10,000,” Bradford says.

Bradford told UWK that in the three weeks since announcing this project, they have raised nearly $5,000. They are still raising money for the project and invite the community to help.

Bradford hopes the statue will serve as a reminder of the sacrifices that veterans have made and the importance of remembering them.

“I want the monument to be displayed in an area where the students gather in the mornings. When the bell rings and they move from one class to another, they’ll see this monument. And they’ll remember that someone gave the ultimate sacrifice, and there are families that still continue to grieve because of that sacrifice for them.”

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