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Brodhead teenager creates awareness through social media
Melody Pope, a senior at Brodhead High School, has been helping raise funds to bring a Huey helicopter to the Green County Veterans Memorial Park. Through her senior project, she's created a video, created a fundraising web page and written articles and grant applications. She is pictured with Karen and Larry Ayres, both members of the memorial park committee. (Photo supplied)
Editor's note: The following story has been corrected from the original version posted online.

BRODHEAD - A senior in high school chose to make a difference for veterans through her flair for social media and way with words.

The Brodhead High School student began her efforts to help the Green County Veterans Memorial Park Board in March. The group's self-appointed volunteer media director, 18-year-old Melody Pope, met GCVMP Board president Larry Ayres and his wife Karen through her art teacher Barbara Miller while putting together a small story for The Independent Register, a weekly newspaper she writes for in her hometown.

"They are both very involved," Pope said. "It just offers healing and peace to so many people. Larry and other veterans have said they find solace in the park."

The memorial park, located at the intersection of County N and Wisconsin 81, is currently home to a number of brick pavers remembering fallen service members and an M-60 army tank. Five flag poles fly, representing each branch of the armed forces. Pope has helped bring a new awareness to the park and its efforts to bring in a new Huey UH-1M helicopter as a way to remember veterans of the Korean, Vietnam and subsequent wars. The board found and purchased the helicopter in November but still needed to raise funds to pay off the rest of the helicopter and to raise more money to touch up the machine and install it at the park.

"According to Larry and Karen, the project kind of exploded when I came on board," Pope said. "I don't know because I didn't see what online feedback was before I started, but they tell me I (make an impact) all the time."

Pope is in charge of all social media, such as the park's Facebook page, which does not have a post before April. She has been driven by Miller, who Ayres said has been "a guiding light" for Pope. The board needed $15,000 to paint the Huey, which was recently acquired. Another estimated $10,000 will be needed for the mount to install the helicopter at the park, which the board is in the process of collecting right now. A Go Fund Me campaign raised $1,425. Donations through the use of Facebook have really made a difference though, Ayres said, something he and his wife have less experience using.

Pope's other duties include the YouTube video she created for the project and advertising for the public. In the video, Orson "Junior" Robertson of Monroe tells the story of his service in Vietnam and how a helicopter saved his life after he was shot during duty. It highlights the importance of the park to veterans and shares footage of the memorial materials already put in place.

"We can certainly give Melody credit," Ayres said. "She's just been so great. She's put words together in a fantastic way."

Pope has a personal connection to the project as well; her grandfather served in the Vietnam War. She said veterans can be a difficult group to understand because their experiences can't truly be comprehended unless you lived through them. Her work on this project to bring a more complete memorial to the park is driven by the hope that it will help veterans in some way.

"I'm proud to be a part of something like this," Pope said. "This place is going to offer sanctuary and healing for a lot of people. It's so awesome to be a part of something people are so passionately involved in."