Joseph McCreight was 18 months old when his father was killed in Vietnam while serving in the Marines.
As soon as he was old enough to understand what had happened, he knew he wanted to join the military, too. With his father’s service in mind, McCreight went on to serve as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Air Force.
Now, his daughters, Elena and Geneva, want to attend the Air Force Academy to serve the country just like he did.
Elena is in the eighth grade at Grapevine Middle School, where military appreciation is expressed year-round. The school is committed to creating an environment that honors and cares for military-connected students and families — an effort recently recognized by the Texas Education Agency.
“We are very humbled and honored,” Principal Mandy Alexander said. “It’s a very special thing.”
The Purple Star designation recognizes Texas schools that show support for students and families with military connections. Grapevine Middle School and Fort Worth ISD’s Applied learning Academy were the two Tarrant County schools awarded this year.
Purple Star designation criteria
The Texas Education Agency recognizes campuses that meet the criteria to receive a Purple Star designation. To be considered, campuses must:
- Designate a campus-based military liaison
- Provide a web page with information for military-connected students and their families.
- Establish a campus transition program to help introduce students to the school environment and host events and tours for newcomers.
- Show support for military-connected students and families, partner with a liaison to support active duty military members or participate in the Month of the Military Child or Military Family month
The school’s primary approach to support is ensuring military-connected individuals have the resources they need, Alexander said.
Brent Turner, a teacher and coach in the Army Reserves, says he has received overwhelming support from the middle school.
As a civil affairs specialist, Turner is subject to random activation and training that requires him to leave his job behind.
Turner’s first leave for training was only five months after he started teaching at the school. With shaky hands, he met with Alexander to notify her about his monthlong break, he said.
The school quickly guided Turner through the steps he needed to take, found a long-term substitute and ensured him that everything would be under control during his absence.
“They helped me prepare all my documents and everything was super smooth,” he said. “I was able to just focus on my task.”
When he returned, thank-you letters were piled on his desk.
The letters continue regardless of what time of the year it is, Turner said. The appreciation for those in the military is a consistent part of Grapevine Middle School’s culture.
The school provides resources not only for military-connected individuals, but also for students with parents on active duty.
A report is run at the beginning of each year to identify military-connected students and reach out to them to fulfill each of their needs, Alexander said.
Purple Star Awardees in Tarrant County
- Effie Morris Early Learning Academy (Lake Worth ISD)
- Lake Worth High School (Lake Worth ISD)
- Lucyle Collins Middle School (Lake Worth ISD)
- Marilyn Miller Language Academy (Lake Worth ISD)
- Marine Creek Leadership Academy (Lake Worth ISD)
- Howry STEAM Academy (Lake Worth ISD)
- Grapevine Middle School (Grapevine-Colleyville ISD)
- Applied Learning Academy (Fort Worth ISD)
“We understand that military families are highly mobile and moving around,” she said. “When we have students that come in, we get them connected at campus, with friends, and get them connected with clubs and with each other because they have that in common.”
Along with its quiet behind-the-scenes efforts, the school also takes a much louder approach to showing its support for the military.
Each year, the school puts on a veterans tribute assembly — what faculty members proudly describe as the best Veterans Day celebration there is.
McCreight felt emotional when he attended the ceremony last year.
“I was blown away — I couldn’t believe such a production,” he said. “It’s been supportive knowing that this school is instilling the right patriotic and the right appreciative stance towards the military.”
Weeks of preparation precede the event that features a band performance, a wall filled with certificates and artwork for military families and a walk of honor.
In the same way that McCreight’s service inspired his daughters, the school’s programs and resources are curating a patriotic and appreciative culture among the students, Alexander said. Students last year asked to be late to class after the ceremony to stay and talk to veterans and get their autographs.
“We can never do enough,” she said. “But the little that we’re doing, we do it with a heart of gratitude.”
Alexander says she will have many late class passes ready this year for students — the little she can do to uphold a school culture that honors those who serve the country.
Sara Honda is the audience engagement and social media fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at email@example.com. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.