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Julia P. Bryant gets Freedom Shrine display
Exchange Club of Statesboro dedicates patriotic visual aid
120712 FREEDOM SHRINE
Gunnery Sgt. Jeffrey Blankenship of the U.S. Marine Corps recruiting office in Statesboro, far left, answers questions from students while Sgt. Michael Roennebeck, right, and Cpl. Anthony Mercaldo prepare to demonstrate how to properly fold an American flag as Julia P. Bryant Elementary School dedicates its Freedom Shrine Friday on the 71st anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

The Exchange Club of Statesboro and Julia P. Bryant Elementary School unveiled a new educational display within the school’s commons Friday that chronicles banner moments in American history.
The new “Freedom Shrine” contains more than a dozen replicas of documents that, in some way, helped create and shape the United States of America during its more than two centuries of existence.
Students passing through the school atrium can now peek into the past, reading addresses of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Georgia Washington and Abraham Lincoln; they can peruse the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Paris and — of particular note, with the 71st anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor occurring Friday — the 1945 Instruments of Surrender from both Japan and Germany.
The words of John F. Kennedy, Robert E. Lee, and America’s founding fathers are all well-preserved within the glass display.
“It is unbelievable and is a beautiful artifact,” said Nate Pennington, the principal of Julia P. “This display fits perfectly into our goals of providing a visual aid to students as they learn about history. History has become a major emphasis in what kids need to know; and we need tools like this to teach them, so history becomes real.”
The Freedom Shrine is the fourth erected in Bulloch County by the Exchange Club of Statesboro. Others have been constructed for the Bulloch County Courthouse Annex, Southeast Bulloch High School, and Portal Middle High School.
“One of our main objectives with the Exchange Club is patriotism,” said Andrea Whitfield, President of the Exchange Club. “By putting these displays up in the schools, making them a focal point for students and providing teachers with an educational tool, we feel like we are instilling in the kids an idea of how great a country we live in.”
The club has a goal to eventually place Freedom Shrines in every Bulloch County school, according to Whitfield. Bulloch Academy and Statesboro High School are next in line, she said.
“Hopefully these projects help to educate kids, instill a sense of patriotism and love for their country, and prepare them to be leaders in the future,” Whitfield said.
Friday, as part of the dedication ceremony, students gathered outside the school media center for a presentation that included the national anthem, a presentation of colors, and a program hosted by U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Jeff Blankenship, Sgt. Michael Roennebeck, and Cpl. Anthony Mercaldo.
“It is impressive to know that there are community groups and clubs that are willing to do this for schools,” Pennington said after the ceremony. “More than anything, this shrine acknowledges what people have done for us throughout history to allow us to be here, free, every day.”
For more information about Freedom Shrines and the Exchange Club of Statesboro, or to get involved, call Whitfield at (912) 764-9091.

Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.

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