In the summer of 2009, Marybeth Leavell was working as the Executive Director of Forest Park Street School (FPSS). During a meeting, Leavell had the opportunity to meet Col. Bracewell, who happened to be active duty military and a member of Civil Air Patrol (CAP). As they discussed the different opportunities that FPSS had to offer, he asked if they had a JROTC program. Being such a small school, they were not able to meet the requirements for JROTC, so he asked her about starting a CAP unit. She laughed as she shared the experience because she said she had never even heard of CAP before this.
The Colonel quickly introduced her to the wing Commander and she filled out the proper paperwork to start a squadron and began recruiting adult members. The adult members were trained prior to recruiting cadet members. Finally, the day arrived for the kick-off of the squadron! Col. Bracewell flew a helicopter into the parking lot of the school!! Approximately 15 cadets signed up that day. It was a blessing to start that small because it gave everyone, young and old, an opportunity to learn together. The squadron continued to grow and strengthen. In 2013, when graduation came, the majority of cadets graduated. With only 10 members remaining, they had a difficult decision to make; should they close the squadron or continue with the remaining cadets?
About the same time, another school 20 minutes down the road, Creekside Christian Academy, was deciding whether or not to start a CAP squadron. Since there are only two school-based Civil Air Patrol squadrons in Georgia, National Headquarters suggested that Rodney Knox, Headmaster, contact Major Leavell at FPSS for her input and help in getting their squadron off the ground. It was a perfect match. The more they worked together – the more they realized what needed to happen.
With everyone in agreement, the decision was made to merge Forest Park Street School Cadet Squadron GA-813, and rename it to form Creekside Christian Academy Cadet Squadron GA-813. The combination of experienced leadership with new cadets was a ‘win-win’ for both schools. This merger culminated in a 45-member “Super” Squadron.
Just a few short months later an amazing transformation began: Three cadets were promoted to Staff Sergeant. Membership was opened to home-schoolers. High school students started receiving elective credits for Fundamentals of Aerospace. Orientation flights are provided monthly in Civil Air Patrol aircraft. And, most significantly, leadership skills are being developed in enthusiastic cadets.
In addition to the training, encampments, a color guard team and flight experience, the squadron will participate in the national veteran’s remembrance “Wreaths Across America” program. The cadets sell wreaths throughout the year, and in collaboration with Sherwood Cemetery in Jonesboro, place the wreaths on the graves of veterans during a nationwide remembrance ceremony in December each year.
The decision to partner with Sherwood Cemetery was conceived because of a marker located in front of Creekside Christian Academy. The name on the marker is James Collins. Collins was a WWII veteran who wanted to honor Gulf War veterans. This year, the Creekside Christian Academy Cadet Squadron will honor Collins with a wreath placed on his marker at the school, a wreath on his grave in Sherwood Cemetery, and a special presentation of a wreath to his wife at her home.
For additional information about Civil Air Patrol, or Wreaths Across America, you can contact Major Marybeth Leavell at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 770-961-9300.