Retired Marine Corps Master Gunnery Segt. Nick Nicholson addresses Deerfield-Windsor elementary school students at the dedication of the Exchange Club of Albany’s new Freedom Shrine located on the school’s lower campus. (Staff Photo: Brad McEwen)
ALBANY — Students at Deerfield-Windsor School’s Lower Campus get a glimpse of history every time they enter the cafeteria, thanks to a Freedom Shrine that has been erected there by the Exchange Club of Dougherty County.
The Freedom Shrine on Deerfield’s campus, which includes replicas of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, was erected a few weeks ago and formally dedicated Tuesday by Exchange Club members, civic leaders and retired Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sgt. Nick Nicholson, who took time to tell the students about the importance of the documents.
“These documents are what this country was founded on,” Nicholson said. “The Constitution is likely the best document ever written by man. It gives us our freedom. Those freedoms are given to us by the Constitution of the United States, written over 200 years ago by some very smart people.”
Using freedom as a backdrop, Nicholson also shared some of his feelings on being an American, what he’s seen travelling the world, how the students can make an impact on their country and what others have done to ensure the country’s freedoms.
“We in America are probably the luckiest people in the world,” said Nicholson. “I’ve seen how other people live and there’s few places I’d rather live. A lot of people have served, given up family, given up life so you can sit here and learn. Forty million have served in the military and of that number, 1.6 million have died for those documents on the wall. I encourage you to be good citizens, mind your mom and dad, and help in your community.”
Albany Mayor Dorothy Hubbard concurred with Nicholson, urging the students to be good citizens and to take the time to learn about the importance of the documents displayed in the Freedom Shrine.
“These documents are the foundation of our country,” Hubbard said. “I want to encourage you to learn and understand about your country. To be a good citizen, it’s important to know about your history. You are very, very fortunate to have these documents.”
As the latest school to receive a Freedom Shrine, Deerfield-Windsor officials thanked club members and shared how excited they were to have such historically significant documents on display for the students.
“We are delighted to receive this,” said Cary Stoudenmire, director the school’s lower campus. “When you see what’s in it it’s really amazing.
We study these things in school so it’s good for the kids to come in and see them. We’re so thankful to the Exchange Club. Not only did they donate (the items), they came and installed (them).”
According to the Exchange Club of Albany’s website, the concept of the Freedom Shrine was developed by the National Exchange Club and grew out of the organization’s Freedom Train, which toured the nation in 1947 carrying an exhibit of important historical documents.
Since that time, Exchange Clubs throughout the country have worked toward install shrines in libraries, state capitols, airports, city halls, universities and schools across the nation.
In addition to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, the Freedom Shrine at DWS includes the Gettysburg Address, the Emancipation Proclamation and inaugural addresses from various presidents.
“This morning is about celebrating the Exchange Club, our country and the Freedom Shrine,” said club member Steve Perrine, who organized the event at DWS. “This is a window into the past to help young people learn more about our nation’s history. I encourage the students to take time to read these documents and get inspired.”