Josh Griggs talks about teacher Clyde Windham’s impact as his flag sits in the trophy case at Ranger Elementary/Middle School. Photo by SAMANTHA SINCLAIRThe Hiwassee Dam Marching Band performed at the Lake Lanier Band Festival on Oct. 7.

SCOUTING AROUND: Flag donated to Ranger honors veteran teacher

   As veterans ate breakfast in Ranger Elementary/Middle School’s media center on Nov. 6, a folded American flag was propped on top of a bookshelf near the doorway, fitting in with the patriotic decorations for the event. However, this flag wasn’t a decoration, but a new donation to the school that will help teach students to respect veterans.
   It was the flag for Clyde Windham, who passed away in 2012. Windham was an educator in the Bibb County, Ga., school district, and had been a major influence in the life of Ranger teacher Josh Griggs.
   “He told me he thought I’d be an excellent teacher,” Griggs said.
   Windham started renting a house from Griggs’ parents shortly after he retired. When Griggs was about 10 years old, he was struggling in math class, and his parents sent him to Windham for tutoring in the evenings. Griggs remembered Windham as a very patient person.
   “He was the first person, besides my parents, to tell me, ‘You are a young intellectual,’ ” Griggs said. “He always pushed me ... his passion for learning, he made learning look cool.”
  Windham also had an adopted son, Marlin, who had special needs. Marlin had been one of Windham’s students before he adopted him. Griggs saw how Windham worked with Marlin so he could be an independent adult. He said a lot of what he does is based on how Windham helped Marlin.
  “Never give up on a student, especially the smart ones, but everyone can learn,” Griggs said. “No one is worth giving up on.
   “These students are just too precious, and he instilled that in me.”
   It wasn’t until later in life that Griggs learned of Windham’s military service in the Army.
   “As a young man, he was drafted right out of high school into the Korean War,” Griggs said.
   He recalled that Windham had told him about the combat he saw, including a story about being in a foxhole for 48 hours straight.
   “It was interesting to me to watch this educator get very emotional in remembering his service,” Griggs said.
   According to his obituary, Windham earned the Korean Service Medal, two Bronze Service Stars and the United Nations Service Medal.
   When Windham died, the Griggs family held a memorial service for him. Griggs was handed the folded flag placed in a protective plastic covering with the casings from the 21-gun salute.
   Last month, when the Moving Wall was in Murphy, Griggs helped instill in the students the importance of what they were seeing. One day during that time, he came home from school, saw the folded flag on his mantle, and got an idea.
   “I thought it needs to be on display here, there needs to be something year-round,” Griggs said.
   He decided to donate the flag to the school for display in the school’s trophy case.
   Principal Kelley McDonald was on board right away with the idea. Griggs officially donated the flag on Nov. 3 so it could be on display for the Veterans Day program that next Monday morning.
   “I think it’s a very honorable thing to do,” McDonald said.
   McDonald said she has ordered a wooden case for the flag. They plan to share the story of Windham at an upcoming school assembly, and want the flag on display to continue to teach students to respect veterans.
   “That flag represents Clyde’s life, and, in my opinion, that’s the best tribute we can give him – to help him continue to educate kids,” Griggs said.

Eagles’ band completes first season
   Without a football field to practice on, Hiwassee Dam High School’s marching band completed their first season Nov. 4 with several excellent ratings.
   “I think we did pretty good,” said Stephen Stiltner, the band’s director. “The whole goal was to get them on the field ... they way surpassed that.”
   He said through the five competitions, no one looked at the 13 students marching in their blue and white uniforms and realized this was the school’s first year performing. Only one student in the band had performed in a marching band before this season.
   The band was led by drum major Gabriella Stiltner, a sophomore. Student section leaders were junior Hannah Bailey, eighth grader Destiny Stiltner, sophomore Megan Wilson and sophomore Jordan McClenithan.
   The show was titled “Warrior” and included three songs – “Bamboo Flute,” “Sakura” and “Tako Sensou.” During the last song, the woodwind section puts down their instruments and picks up bamboo sticks and performs a mock fighting sequence.
   The band’s first performance was in Far West show in Andrews. During their first competition, the Bradley Classic in Bradley, Tenn., the band placed fifth overall.
   At the Lake Lanier Band Festival, the band was rated excellent in drumline and band and superior for drum major for the festival portion, then excellent in drumline and band, superior for drum major and color guard, plus second place overall in class for the competition portion.
   The band also received excellent ratings at their last three competitions. They also earned third place for band and drumline and second place for drum major at the Alcoa Band Festival in Tennessee, and second place for band, drum major and percussion during the Old South Band Festival in Georgia.
   While this is Stiltner’s third year at Hiwassee Dam, he is an experienced band director, who previously taught in Virginia and eastern North Carolina schools for more than 10 years.
   The Hiwassee Dam marching band plans to perform a Christmas music medley in Murphy’s annual Hometown Christmas Parade on Saturday, Dec. 2.
   Samantha Sinclair is the Scouting Around columnist for the Cherokee Scout. You can reach her by email, scoutingaround@cherokeescout.com; fax, 837-5832; or by leaving a message in the office at 837-5122.