Local veteran part of school lesson, honored at NASCAR race

Roush, a Thornapple Kellogg graduate, was 22 and serving in Afghanistan when he was killed in August 2009.

This year Roush's story wasn't just told to middle school students. It will also be seen nationwide as part of  NASCAR’s Coca Cola 600 race Sunday in Charlotte, N.C.

Each NASCAR driver will have the name of a fallen service member displayed on his vehicle. Roush’s name will appear on the car driven by Michigan driver Erik Jones.

Bob and Donna Roush have often talked about how their son loved cars and his pride in restoring and modifying an Eagle Talon while a high school student.

The Roushes plan to attend the NASCAR race that will be televised on Fox 17 starting at 6 p.m.

Several TK Middle School students stopped and gathered at Roush’s gravesite while placing the American flags. Students say knowing someone from their own community and who had been at their own school makes Memorial Day a lot more real.

A TK High School student, Moriah “Mo” Sprague, wrote an essay entitled “A Hero” about how she came to understand Roush’s death and the impact he made on the community. The essay was shared with the middle school students.

Sprague was 6 years old, she wrote, when Roush died. She didn’t understand any of it at the time and didn’t fully understand it until she was in middle school and had the same Memorial Day lesson as students did this year.

Sprague eventually came to gain ownership of a bright red golden retriever named Charlie. The dog had belonged to Roush’s fiancée.

“The dog’s name, Charlie, as in honor of the unit/company he served with,” Sprague wrote.

“He [Roush] was killed in action serving his country in Afghanistan and died protecting the people at home from further terrorist attacks,” she wrote. “Now, I know why people had cried oceans of tears that day. Not only is he a son, a brother, and a friend, but he is also a hero. That certainly will never die.”

“To this day, Charlie, a bright, red golden retriever, gives everyone he meets a big, friendly, loving smile from ear to ear ... just like Nick. If Nick could hear me now, I would say, “Thank you. You gave up your life to protect mine. I won’t waste it.”