Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

REVERENCE AT THE WALL; Flagpole, Plaque Dedicated to Nease Grad the Marine Corporal Was Killed While on Patrol in Iraq in 2006

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

REVERENCE AT THE WALL; Flagpole, Plaque Dedicated to Nease Grad the Marine Corporal Was Killed While on Patrol in Iraq in 2006

Article excerpt

Byline: TIMOTHY J. GIBBONS

The words on the plaque are simple, stark.

"In honor of Marine Corporal Joshua Watkins, 1999 Nease graduate," it reads. And then the dates: "4/8/81-10/21/06."

Just over two years ago, Watkins was killed while on patrol in Iraq.

The small rectangular plaque will serve as a reminder for the future, his mother, Amy Watkins Vazquez, said.

"As time goes on, people's lives go on and we forget," she said. "Maybe in years to come, someone will walk by here and pause and remember."

Nease High School installed the plaque while dedicating its Navy Junior ROTC flagpole Monday in honor of Watkins.

The dedication ceremony is part of the St. Johns County school system's increased focus on honoring veterans, said School Board member Bill Mignon, who was principal at Nease when Watkins attended.

He said the ceremony will have an effect on the dozens of students who attended.

"They can't help but be impressed with not only the sacrifice Josh made, but also the sacrifice his mother made," Mignon said.

EVENT HONORS ALL VETERANS

Held on the 233rd anniversary of the founding of the Marine Corps and the day before Veterans Day, the ceremony served as a call for remembrance not only of Watkins but for all veterans.

"As we assemble here this morning, there are men and women all over the globe, on duty and standing watch, so we have the freedom to do that," said Capt. Bob Young, Navy Junior ROTC instructor.

Thoughts of sacrifice and freedom swirled through Vazquez's head as she looked at the students and staff gathered in honor of her son.

Monday was the first time she has set foot on the Nease campus since her son graduated and enrolled at the University of North Florida.

After three years at UNF, he told her he was signing up.

"'It's time,'" she recalled him telling her. "'I've always wanted to go.'"

Deeply affected by the events of Sept. 11 , 2001, Watkins saw it as his duty to take the fight overseas so it wouldn't again come to American soil. …

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