COPPERAS COVE — Sgt. Joseph Alpiste had an opportunity to pay it forward through Copperas Cove Independent School District’s Paint Your School Orange Campaign and he did not hesitate to take action.

He and other soldiers of the 91st Brigade Engineer Battalion, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, were up with the rising of the sun to blanket the entrance of Martin Walker Elementary, their adopted school, in the color orange before students arrived at school, sending a clear message that bullying is not acceptable.

“This is important to me because of personal experience in facing bullying and teaching kids to be positive to the change you want to see,” Alpiste said. “This is a subject close to home for me and to encourage kids to be kind to other people is important to me.”

Preteen Miss Five Hills Dorianna Gilbert started the campaign this year as her community service project through the pageant.

“I understand that bullying is a hard topic to talk about, but I wanted to make it where we can all come together and talk about it but also make it fun,” Gilbert said. “I am really excited that the schools invited their adopted units to help, too, because now even more people are involved in spreading the message that bullying is not acceptable.”

Gilbert is a military dependent and is a seventh grader at S. C. Lee Junior High. Both of her parents are retired from the military and taught her to stand up for herself and others.

“I used to be bullied, but then I stood up to the bullies and it didn’t happen anymore,” Gilbert said. “Now, if I see other students being bullied, I tell them to stand up for themselves or I help them stand up to the bullies.”

More than a dozen businesses throughout Copperas Cove are also participating in the month-long decorating campaign. Both the school winner and the business winner each receive a $100 cash prize. Gilbert raised the money for the awards by hosting a stand on Lemonade Day Weekend in May. The winners will be announced on Oct. 19 at the local school board meeting and city council workshop.

Soldiers assigned to the 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, also helped decorate their adopted school, Williams/Ledger Elementary, in orange to send an anti-bullying message. While both units hope their schools will win the local contest, the real reward is helping ensure the safety and well-being of students.

“For our battalion and company, a lot of us have children, and being a part of school events and helping the children show how much we care is important,” said 2nd Lt. Zoe Wieman.

Alpiste said the message is very simple and should be used in all interactions.

“Don’t be mean to people and be kind,” Alpiste said. “Don’t be mean to someone just because other people are being mean to that person also.”

October is Bullying Prevention Month.

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