Nov. 17—MARIETTA — The biting Monday cold was no match for the throng of eighth graders gallivanting west on Polk Street, toward Hope.
Hope Street, that is, where the crowd of over 100 eighth grade students from Marietta Middle School was on its way to surprise a local hero.
That hero is 98-year-old Charles "Scrappy" Edwards, a World War II Navy veteran who attended Marietta High School in the early 1940s before enlisting.
One of Edwards' next door neighbors, eighth grader Tessa Chalfant, led the pack of her enthusiastic classmates as they marched along Polk Street on Nov. 14 like it was the Fourth of July, waving mini-American flags and hoisting balloons and posters awash in red, white and blue. Originally scheduled for Veterans Day, the march was delayed to the Monday after due to a tropical storm.
Multiple times along the route, students started singing "The Star Spangled Banner." As they approached Edwards' home, the tune could be heard up and down Hope Street.
Overjoyed by the visitors, who also included Marietta Mayor Steve "Thunder" Tumlin and Councilman Johnny Walker, Edwards sat alongside his sister, Mary Moon, as he met some of the visiting students.
First came the Marietta Middle School football team, which presented Edwards with a ball signed by the team's members and said they would be playing for him as they pursue a deep playoff run.
Edwards knows something about football in Marietta — he was the quarterback at Marietta High before he joined the Navy in 1942. One student asked where he got the nickname "Scrappy." Edwards said he got it as a football player, though he added it might have come from an older brother, one his eight siblings, who went by the same moniker.
Another student, holding a portable pink microphone, asked Edwards where he was stationed during the war.
"I was on a destroyer escort ship in the Pacific," Edwards said.
When one student asked how long he had served in the Navy, Edwards did not hesitate.
"Two years, 10 months, 15 days," he said.
Edwards, who served from 1943 to 1945, said he and his ship "sailed the ocean blue" like it was theirs during the war. He added that he was a gunner's mate while aboard the ship, a job he found easy. Edwards said he spent 17 months on the ship, which his son, William Edwards, confirmed was the USS Osmus. William Edwards said that his dad's ship chased Japanese submarines and sank one. He added that his father's ship was also responsible for the surrender of a Japanese island and the capture of numerous Japanese soldiers.
William Edwards said that after the war, his father worked for the U.S. government, eventually becoming an Army recruiter, and added his father retired with a pension after decades working various jobs for the government.
Chalfant had told her teacher, Linda Skaggs, about Edwards back in August. That is when Skaggs began preparing for Monday's march, which she coupled with lessons about World War II in the leadup to Veterans Day.
"We just wanted to come here and say, 'Thank you,'" Chalfant said. "I think it's important so we can see our history ... and I think everyone should know about it and learn about it."
Before leaving, students at the front of the crowd started a wave, like those initiated in the crowds at sporting events as Edwards looked on with family members, including his son, William.
"This is, it's amazing," William Edwards said. "He's so humble, he never tries to be in the front of anything. To have all this done for him is very special. Very special."
In addition to the football, students gifted Edwards with letters of appreciation and a gift basket on behalf of the entire eighth grade. Chalfant said she hoped he liked the surprise she initiated.
Fittingly, the hero's "thank you" Edwards received on Hope Street was all he and his young neighbor could have asked for.
"I'll tell you what it makes me feel, I don't know, I've just got such a great feeling I can't even express it," Edwards told the Journal. "It's a good feeling to have all these people come over here and express their appreciation for me."