Students Safely Cross Street Without Crossing Guard Thanks to Retired Marine

Lewis Alston was shocked when he saw no crossing guard at the busy intersection.

ByABC News
August 28, 2014, 11:51 AM

— -- With no crossing guard in sight, one retired Marine made it his duty to help children at a Pennsylvania elementary school cross the street.

When retired Cpl. Lewis Alston, who was wounded during the Vietnam War, drove by Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Lancaster last year, he was shocked.

“I saw -- when I was coming down the street -- a student that ran in between the cars,” Alston, 63, of Lititz, Pennsylvania, told ABC News. “The traffic will not stop for the children at all.”

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So when the school year started on Monday, Alston, who is a chaplain for the Lancaster County Marine Corps League, headed to the school and saw that they didn’t have a crossing guard at one busy intersection. Because he had been at a funeral service that day, Alston was still wearing his marine uniform.

“I had my uniform on, and I thought, ‘Wouldn't it be a golden opportunity for the students to see a marine help them cross the street?’” the former truck driver said.

Every day since then, Alston has gone to the school in his uniform in the mornings and afternoons when he can to walk the children safely across the street. Alston said he doesn't try to stop or block traffic, but will ask cars to stop and will cross the street with groups of students.

“It’s just heavy in my heart to have the students have to deal with this,” he said.

While there are crossing guards in other areas around the school, there isn't a crossing guard at Alston’s intersection because the city has limited resources, according to Lancaster Chief of Police Keith Sadler.

“There are hundreds of intersections that just can’t be covered. We’re short crossing guards now, and it’s not for lack of wanting,” Sadler told ABC News.

Sadler, who knows Alston personally, said what Alston’s doing isn't illegal and won’t ask him to stop.

“I think the marine uniform was a great idea,” Sadler said. “He’s a very honorable man. You almost wish more people would take that much interest in a community.”

The School District of Lancaster told ABC News that it's fortunate to have volunteers like Alston to provide safe passages for its students both to and from school.

"In addition to the retired marine, we have a group of community members who have stationed themselves in a heavily traveled park at dismissal time for the past four years," district spokesperson Kelly Burkholder said in a statement.

Parents, students, and even those in the cars Alston ask to stop appreciate his help, Alston said.

“The students saluted me. They say, ‘Thank you sir,’” he said. “One woman in her car said, ‘Thank you for your service.’”

Alston said he and a few of his friends that are also veterans plan on working as a team to help each other at different intersections without crossing guards.

“In a small little town, we all look out for each other,” said Alston.

“I will stay there until this is worked out. If I can be there, I will be there.”

Alston said he hopes the national spotlight will bring attention to a bigger cause: hiring local veterans.

"They're saying in Lancaster they only have maybe 27 crossing guards, so they don't have enough for each school, so this would be an opportunity to hire vets," Alston said. "This is a golden opportunity that we can have veterans step forward and get hired as crossing guards and volunteer as crossing guards."