Muldrow Book vending Machine to honor American Hero

A new reading program at Muldrow Elementary School honors the life and sacrifice of 1994 graduate and U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Josh Wheeler.

Muldro, Oklahoma – Any teacher will tell you that reading fosters a love of learning. Now, there’s a new program impacting the lives of children in the River Valley and honoring an American hero who died fighting for our country.

“Well, of course my biggest hope is that they find a love of reading,” said Lana Varney, a librarian at Muldreu Elementary School.

Muldrow Elementary School is using technology to connect its students to stories through an all-new book vending machine. Children can earn tokens by making good choices, which are distributed by all teachers in the building.

“It was me who won the token and the reason I won the token was because I was good in class to help the teacher and didn’t talk,” said third grader Kayden Brignack.

So not only do they have a book to take home with them forever, but we also encourage good citizenship and work hard in the classroom, out of the classroom,” Varney said.

The machine itself is dedicated to 1994 Moldo graduate Josh Wheeler.

“He’s an American hero and he’s the hometown hero of Moldrow,” said Tami Hall, the principal of Muldrow Elementary School.

The Army’s first sergeant was killed while serving in Iraq in 2015, and his mother-in-law, the nanny herself, reached out to school wanting to do something in his honor.

“She said Josh loves to read, he was a great reader. She told me a story about how when he read books, he would write notes for his sons on the front of the books. So I thought that was just a perfect idea,” Hall said.

His family donates money to help fill the machine with books and his image will remind the next generation of his sacrifice.

“Students will see his picture every day,” Hall said. “They’ll ask questions about Josh. They’ll do a search for him. This is a great way to keep his memory alive.”

“I love the fact that five years from now there will be kids walking down the hall wondering, ‘Who’s that guy over there?’ So his story will continue,” Varney said.

The stories in the books that the kids will keep will also be preserved, and building a foundation for their future, this is free, thanks to serving soldiers like Josh Wheeler.

“If we can foster that love of reading,” Varney said, “they would obviously be successful in school. That’s my passion. Get the books in their hands, get them home and read.”

There is a monument outside Muldrow High School honoring Wheeler’s service and the stretch of Interstate 64 between Muldrow and Roland bears his name. Schools say Wheeler’s grandparents still live in Roland and were happy to hear this grandson’s memorial now on the vending machine.

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