• July 11, 2014

Meadows Elementary shares 60 years of history with Fort Hood

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Posted: Saturday, October 19, 2013 10:53 pm | Updated: 6:31 pm, Tue Oct 22, 2013.

The ironclad bond between the Killeen Independent School District and Fort Hood holds secure with multiple rivets, including a school nearly as old as the installation.

Today, nine Killeen ISD schools dot the Army post. The first, named for Camp Hood’s original engineer, is situated near the east gate between bustling Tank Destroyer Boulevard and a phalanx of Fort Hood buildings.

Meadows Elementary School turns 60 this year. An anniversary celebration is planned at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the school, 423 27th St., Fort Hood.

Its history mingles tightly with the U.S. Army post that began in 1942 as Camp Hood and became Fort Hood in 1950.

Lt. Col. Benjamin Meadows, described as a lifelong builder, served as engineer for the growing Army post and designed the original structures that made up the fledgling Fort Hood.

He also served on the Fort Hood Independent School District board of trustees. That district operated in 13 buildings on post from 1946 to 1953, when it consolidated with Killeen ISD and when Meadows Elementary opened.

The school’s formal story is documented in locally produced histories. An informal parallel history exists in string-bound scrapbooks of black-and-white photos and fading color snapshots in a corner of the school library.

Tied to Fort Hood

“When I was hired here, I had no idea of the history,” said Meadows counselor Dennette Gardner, now in her seventh year at the school. “I found a rich history here.”

Students who attend Meadows often leave with their military families, travel around the world, return to the school and leave again.

Kristina Perez, now a fifth-grade teacher at Meadows, attended the school as a child and for a while taught alongside one of her former teachers. She is scheduled to speak at the anniversary celebration.

Judy Van Riper, a retired Killeen ISD teacher and principal, taught at Meadows in the same classroom where she attended first grade. She also is on the program to speak.

“You can touch lives here who come back to you,” Gardner said. “There’s a beautiful continuity. Meadows has touched so many lives through the generations and decades.”

Named for post engineer

Among the school’s scrapbooks of handwritten PTA rosters and typed meeting minutes are news stories, including one about Meadows’ untimely death in the service of his country.

On Aug. 22, 1951, the military engineer died with eight others when a C-47 transport plane crashed on a runway at Elmendorf Air Base in Alaska.

Meadows Elementary School, originally planned as Fort Hood’s high school, opened two years later in 1953 as Killeen ISD’s first on-post school. Maj. Gen. William Biddle spoke at the school dedication.

He honored Meadows in his speech saying, “right here is his most enduring monument,” in reference to Fort Hood, which the engineer left in 1950 after designing many of the buildings.

Elsewhere in the speech are these words from Biddle: “For that is what our country needs more than ever, now that she has reached a position of leadership in the free world. May this school play its part in developing Americans who are worthy of our heritage and able to uphold it.”

In 2007, Killeen ISD replaced the original Meadows Elementary School with a new building on the same property. The original structure, refurbished and repurposed, is again part of Fort Hood.

Expanding legacy

The school’s rich heritage continues with traditions that often connect to the military and always include learning.

Meadows sponsors a robotics team that consistently wins competitions throughout the state.

The school maintains a strong connection with Fort Hood Adopt-A-School partner, the 41st Fires Brigade’s 2nd Battalion, 20th Field Artillery Regiment, and has hosted numerous video teleconferences connecting students and families with deployed parents.

In February 2004, retired Gen. Robert M. Shoemaker brought a group of Vietnam War-era veterans to Meadows during a national commemorative tour of the Huey helicopter.

In April 2009, two Iraqi military officers spent about two hours at Meadows visiting with principal Karol Carlisle and answering students’ questions while touring the school. A fifth-grade class at the school became “video pen pals” with a school in Iraq.

The past several years, Meadows students gathered outside to cheer on wounded warriors riding bikes past the school on an annual trek across Texas. That event, as well as any, illustrates the school’s special bond with families who sacrifice and serve.

The past two years, Meadows student Diego Mercado sat proudly on his customized bike, greeting the recovering, bike-riding soldiers with his own bendable prosthetic leg in full view. During the ride in April, a rider gave Diego a memorial wristband and invited the 7-year-old Meadows student to be a wounded warrior.

“My kids are so proud of them,” said Mary Moreau, Diego’s kindergarten teacher, on the day of the ride. “They are soldiers’ children and they take so much pride and ownership in our soldiers.”

More than 60 years’ worth of soldiers’ children have passed through two Meadows Elementary School buildings and the service continues.

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