A Photograph has Opened Doors for Woodstock Teen
Editor’s Note: Darleen Prem shares photos of Woodstock events with our magazine on a regular basis. When we saw this compelling photo of a young girl, obviously emotional during the city’s Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony honoring fallen officers, we dug a little deeper to find out what moved her that day. Apparently, the photo not only got our attention, but that of Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds.
By Candi Hannigan
Curtis and Cathy Kramer, their sons Will and Austin, and niece Katelyn Gann were enjoying dinner in downtown Woodstock when they decided to attend the Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony at The Park at City Center. It was a moving ceremony that brought emotions to the surface, with bagpipes and trumpet sounding a solemn tribute to fallen officers.
“At one point, they said if you’d like to stand up, you can. Members of the military or police, active or retired, you can stand up,” Curtis said. “I looked over at my wife and she’s crying, I was choking up, my niece was crying. Then I looked again and saw Katelyn standing up at full salute.”
It was an automatic response for Katelyn, a rising junior at Woodstock High School and member of the ROTC.
“I’m looking at all the officers and watching the color guard. The service started and I was kinda getting emotional. Then they played the bagpipes and had the officers line up. They finished with the roll call of the fallen officers, and had all the officers salute. I was blubbering like a baby. I looked at all the officers saluting, and I just stood up and saluted. It was the right thing to do.”
Curtis wasn’t the only one to notice Katelyn’s patriotic act.
As the family was leaving the ceremony, Ken Ball, chief deputy of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department, approached Katelyn and asked if he could give her a hug. Ball told her that he had been doing well keeping his emotions in check until he saw Katelyn’s emotional salute, and thanked the family for their support. Another officer stopped them on the way out and gave Katelyn a SWAT team challenge coin. Katelyn said her Aunt Cathy explained this was significant because officers carry coins for a number of reasons, including sentimental attachments or for good luck.
That was just the beginning. When Woodstock photographer Darleen Prem posted the photo on Facebook, asking if anyone knew the young lady saluting, Cathy Kramer responded with Katelyn’s name.
“That next morning, my uncle knocked on my door and said, you’re famous! Your picture is all over Facebook,” Katelyn said.
A few days later, a sheriff’s deputy visited Woodstock High School with a copy of the photo to help him locate her. Katelyn’s ROTC instructor, Gunnery Sgt. Keith Myrick, happened to be in the school office when the deputy arrived and was able to take him to Katelyn’s classroom.
The deputy was there to invite Katelyn and her family to a special ceremony and presentation by Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds.
During the presentation, Reynolds gave her a framed photo of her saluting in the park, which he had signed. While Katelyn and the sheriff were talking, Curtis mentioned to the sheriff’s assistant that Katelyn loves animals and thought about becoming a K-9 officer. After a few phone calls, Katelyn was surprised with a visit from two K-9 police officers.
All of this happened because she stood up and saluted, doing what her heart told her to do, Curtis said.
Before this experience Katelyn wasn’t sure if she wanted to pursue a law career or join the military and then become a K-9 officer. Now, she said, there’s no question in her mind. And she is well on her way, having recently ranked No. 1 at Woodstock High in air rifle. Leadership camp is on the agenda this summer, another activity to bring her closer to her goal of becoming an officer.
Katelyn credits her aunt and uncle, who’ve had guardianship of her for two years, for encouraging her to follow her heart and join ROTC when she started high school.
“They have had a big influence on me. I probably wouldn’t have done any of this if I weren’t in ROTC,” she said.
The patriotic teen has a few important messages to share.
Support public servants: “I actually want to take this opportunity and reach out to our Woodstock community and ask them to show their support,” she said, a reaction to the small number of citizens who attended the memorial ceremony. “I love Woodstock because we’re such a close community, and I thought there would be more of a turnout. Next time, be sure to show up and show your support.”
Don’t give up on millennials: “This young girl comes from the millennial age that a lot of people think are babied too much, that we live on our phones, that we’re rude to our elders. While some of that is true, I want to be an example that it isn’t always true. I wanted to show my support and get other people to show theirs.”
Let’s join Katelyn and her family at the next Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony, which is tentatively planned for 7 p.m. May 14, 2018, at The Park at City Center in downtown Woodstock. Visit www.woodstockga.gov for updates.