Marines with Recruiting Substation Woodbury attended Hudson High School's Empty Parking Lot Project ceremony May 27, an event dedicated to honoring all service members, past and present.
To show their appreciation and recognize the sacrifices made by men and women serving at home and abroad, students emptied the school's parking lot by walking, riding bikes or taking the bus to school.
"It caught me off guard," said recruiter Sgt. Brandon Blazer, 26, from Dayton, Ohio. "I wasn't expecting the entire school to be that patriotic."
Instead of teaming with activity and overflowing with cars, nearly 6,000 names of service members killed during Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom were written on the ground, filling the parking lot in the shape of an American flag.
A handful of students started the project at 4:00 p.m., Thursday and finished around 5:30 a.m., the following morning after buying every piece of chalk from all of the stores in Hudson. Event coordinator Ben Peters even had to make a special trip to Woodbury, Minn., at 11:00 p.m., to buy additional supplies. Overall, even with several chalk donations, students spent close to $100 on materials to complete the project.
"Dozens of kids stopped to help us out after driving by," said Peters, an 18-year-old senior at Hudson High School who hopes to one day earn the title Marine. "I'm forever in their debt as we wouldn't have been able to finish in time without their help."
Six years ago, Peters' older sister, Cory, spearheaded the event by asking community members to go one day without driving to school in recognition of the freedoms service members have fought to preserve.
"My dad challenged me to step outside of my comfort zone and get my fellow students to look at the bigger picture," said Cory, a 24-year-old graduate of Marquette University. "I'm very proud of my brother for re-starting the project as no one was passionate enough to continue it after I graduated."
The Marine Corps was the only branch of service who accepted the school's invitation and attended the gathering. For additional imagery from the event, visit www.facebook.com/rstwincities.