By Samantha Joseph
MARTIN COUNTY - Robert "Bart" Fletcher was a "difficult" and "defiant" child during his time at Stuart Middle School, until a music teacher there became his mentor and set him on a path that made him an exemplary and ambitious student.
That's why his parents have donated two musical instruments to the school in memory of the boy who later excelled in school and eventually grew up to become an Army lieutenant.
"As we look back over our lives, we look at key things that happened and we think that his relationship with (former instructor Al Hager), and his involvement with the Stuart Middle School band, were integral parts of what made him who he was," said stepfather Jack Luther.
His mother, Ginny Luther said, "Bart was not easy at this stage of his life but Al Hager believed he was a valuable player. It was then Bart believed in himself. His experience in middle school with the band gave him direction to find purpose in his life."
Lt. Fletcher died in Fort Hood, Texas, in 2008 when a soldier there shot him, then committed suicide.
Lt. Fletcher had returned from a tour of duty in Iraq. He was under orders to supervise the soldier, who was reportedly a suspect in a theft investigation.
"The (soldier) involved saw a threat where there really wasn't a threat. He took out a Glock and put five rounds into my son's head," Mr. Luther said. "It was a terrible, terrible day."
Mr. Fletcher's parents said their gift of two saxophones to their son's alma mater is one of several ways they've tried to make sense of his death and celebrate his life.
The Luthers, who founded The Lt. Robert Fletcher Memorial Foundation, used the proceeds from the sale of their son's vintage saxophone to purchase the gift.
They had help from Carlyle Weber, owner of the Band Box, who brokered the sale of the original sax, and gave them a discount on the two instruments.
They said they hoped the gift would help inspire other children, the way music changed the life of their son, who not only played in the school's marching band but later joined a local jazz group.
"Bart was our youngest. He was our baby, and yet he was our most hopeful," Mr. Luther said.
For more information about The Lt. Robert Fletcher Memorial Foundation, visit www.ltrobertfletchermemorial.com.