CARROLLTON TWP. (AP) – Students at a Saginaw County elementary school proved that a penny – or 500 – can go a long way.

Kids from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade at Bethlehem Lutheran collected pennies in jars to pay for a bronze plaque honoring a soldier killed in Afghanistan.

U.S. Army Sgt. Kristopher J. Gould, a former student at the Carrollton Township school, died Feb. 27 from wounds suffered after insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.

James and Ann Gould say they didn’t realize how many people their son had affected until after his death.

“To us, he was just our son, and we miss him so much,” said James Gould of Bay County’s Frankenlust Township.

The plaque was mounted on the school building Thursday, just behind the flagpole, at an entrance near the gym.

Principal Ron Dressler said the fundraising effort worked like this: If a nickel, dime, quarter or dollar bill was dropped in a jar rather than a penny, it reduced the total value of the jar by that silver coin or dollar’s value, thereby encouraging students to donate more pennies to make up the shortage.

“Just pennies counted, and they raised more than $500,” Dressler told The Saginaw News. “We ordered a 16-inch-by-14-inch bronze plaque that weighs about 20 pounds. It’s very heavy and solid.”

Dressler, who has been Bethlehem’s principal for 40 years, said he remembers Gould well.

“He was a good kid, and he and his family are longtime members of the church,” the principal said.

Gould served in the military for eight years, with three deployments in the Middle East. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

At Gould’s memorial service in March, Bethlehem Lutheran Pastor Charles Buckhahn praised Gould for his faith and service to his country.

To Gould’s parents, it’s a lot of praise for a man they say was just a regular guy.

“For a young man who hasn’t been there in so long, to still be getting this recognition, it’s overwhelmingly satisfying that our son was thought of in this way,” James Gould said.

© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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