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Pens for Freedom

HT class engraves pens, sends to troops overseas

By Gary Lloyd

TRUSSVILLE — The project was not just for a letter grade, for the experience that looks good on a college application.

It was meaningful.

The Hewitt-Trussville High School Engineering Academy’s Computer Integrated Manufacturing class earlier this month participated in the Freedom Pen Project, a Penn State Industries-sponsored project in which the company sends schools materials necessary to make 10 pens.

A look at the pens
submitted photo

The students turned the wooden blocks on a small wood lathe, said Engineering Academy instructor Jason Dooley. After turning and polishing their wooden parts, the students then used a small press to assemble all the pen pieces. After all the pens were assembled, the students engraved the words “Freedom” and “USA” onto all the pens using a laser engraver.

Dooley said all the pens were going to be distributed to troops in the various branches of the military. The project’s goal is for every freedom pen to serve as a constant reminder to troops that they’re not alone and that they have the students’ continuing support.

Hewitt-Trussville High School students who participated in the project included Michael Beaman, Corey Vincent, Nick Garrett, Rachel Keaveny, Andrew Patterson, Jonathan Stillwell, Tyler Toner, Lauren Townley, Nick Walton, Chace Wigley, Griffin Young and Josh Strickland.

“Altogether they created 10 beautiful wooden pens that will be sent to our valued members of the military,” Dooley said.

Students show off the pens.
submitted photo

The project was especially meaningful for two participating students. Stillwell’s brother, Bradley Sims, was a former Engineering Academy student.

“I created three pens in the hopes that my brother, who joined the Army right after high school, could possibly receive one of them,” Stillwell said. “When he was in basic training, I remember him saying that he enjoyed getting mail. Even if he doesn’t get one of my pens, I hope that he gets one and that it reminds him of the pens he made in high school.”

Keaveny also found the project meaningful and personal.

“It was definitely hard for me to make a pen for our troops overseas,” she said. “My twin older brothers just left for basic training in San Antonio, Texas, and for 16 years I was able to walk down the hall and talk to them. I can’t do that now, but it’s all right because I’m extremely proud of them and what they’re doing. Even though making the pen, at times, was emotionally difficult, it reminded me that for a soldier it would be a way of saying ‘Thank you,’ a reminder that they are missed, and the hope that they make it home safely.”

Contact Gary Lloyd at and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.

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