Honoring stars and stripes

FORESTVILLE – The Forestville Elementary School gym was overflowing with patriotism as students, faculty, and staff joined with the community for a flag day ceremony. Music, speeches, presentations, and lessons about the flag were all on the program held on Tuesday.

The Sixth Grade band, directed by music teacher Jeffrey Geblein, gave spirited and in-tune performances of patriotic music, such as “American Patrol” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag” as students filed in by class to take their seats in the gym bleachers.

Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, many in uniform, respectfully stood in a line, to salute the color guard. The color guard consisted of American Legion members Brian Schneider, Douglas Hahn, Thomas Halicki, and Richard Yeager; Girls Scouts Hailee Gould, Ashley Forbes, and Phoebe Kingsfield; and Boy Scouts Garrett Sliwinski, Braden Grubb and Jack Frost.

Christopher Waterman, the student of the week, led the Pledge of Allegiance. Elementary student Rachel Goodrich lead the singing of the Star Spangled Banner.

Coordinator of the assembly, teacher Patricia Miller, explained a little about Flag Day.

She said, “Flag Day is the birthday of our flag. It was approved on June 14, 1777. So our American flag is 236 years old. … On Flag Day, we honor our flag which represents our country and all the brave men and women who have served our country in the past and who are serving our country right now. It’s a day to take a moment to appreciate the freedoms we have.”

Commander of the Forestville post of the American Legion Thomas Halicki explained the American Legion sponsors an essay contest. Fourth grade students are invited to write an essay about “What the Flag Means to Me.”

Forestville did very well in this competition. Out of 1,400 submissions this year, Nathan Merrill took first place and Carly Barrett placed fourth. Both students read their winning essays.

In her essay Carly wrote, ” When I see the U.S. flag, I am reminded of equality among all people. No matter what color, race, or religion someone may be, anyone can choose to be who they want to be. Most important of all, the flag reminds me of the men and women of our country who fight for our freedom every day.”

Nathan spoke about his personal sense of history in connection with the flag.

“My great-grandfather died in World War II. I never got to know him, but every time I look at the flag I think of him and I’m grateful for his sacrifice. There is a special marker in Forestville for my great-grandfather and many other men, and each year my sister and I place a flower on the marker to show our respect. The flag means many things to many people, but to me it means freedom and happiness.”

Sixth-grade student Brandi Pryll is lucky enough to have her great-grandfather Richard Mosher in her life. A member of the Forestville Knitting Club, she presented a lap blanket made by the group to him. She said she is proud of her great-grandfather’s service in World War II and happy she has been able to know him.

The members of the knitting club each made at least one block for the lap blanket and each one explained who was honored with the block. Knitters included sixth grade students Luke Szumigala, Pryll and Elizabeth Butcher; fifth graders Ashley Forbes, Sydney Frost, Carson Becker, Gabby Wright, and Chloe Barrett and knitting mentors.

After Mosher, dressed in his legion uniform accented by a patriotic tie, received the red white and blue blanket, he thanked the club for it. Modestly, he said that others were probably more deserving of the honor but he was honored to accept it. Those assembled gave Mosher a standing ovation.

Brian Schneider, an American Legion member, explained to the students about proper disposal of an American Flag that is retired. He said the flags are burned in a special ceremony, the ashes saved and scattered on veterans’ graves during Memorial Day.

Sarah Pleva, a junior at Forestville High School ended the program by leading the students in singing Lee Greenwood’s song “Proud to be an American.”

The children again showed respect as the color guard retreated. Students placed their right hands over their hearts.

Comments on this article may be directed to dchodan@observertoday.com.