06/01/08 — Schools honor veterans on Memorial Day make-up day

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Schools honor veterans on Memorial Day make-up day

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on June 1, 2008 3:15 AM

When Beth Bouchard's kindergarten class lined up Saturday to say the Pledge of Allegiance, the flag that flew overhead as they put their hands over their hearts and recited the words was not just any red, white and blue banner.

Their American flag at Tommy's Road Elementary School had been flown in an F-15E Strike Eagle over Afghanistan -- with one of the class members' fathers at the controls.

Mrs. Bouchard's youngsters were just a few of the thousands of Wayne County students who put on their school clothes and headed to class for a few hours this weekend.

Wayne County Public Schools held classes until lunchtime as a make-up day for observing Memorial Day May 26.

Many of the schools used several of their weekend hours to pay tribute to soldiers who have fought and died for their country's freedom -- a meaning that wasn't lost on Tommy's Road Elementary School students, not even the youngest ones.

Mrs. Bouchard's kindergarteners know more than simply what a flag should look like -- they know what those colors symbolize -- and that the banner is a symbol of freedom.

And they try to remember, not just on a holiday, but every day, their teacher said.

"Memorial Day isn't just one day for us," she said. "It is several days."

The students know the Pledge of Allegiance word-for-word, and they also know what those words mean. They learned it in chunks.

But as they stood up to say the pledge, with their right hands over their hearts, they looked up at a flag that meant more to them than any other.

Sure, it had the red and white stripes and a star for each state, but this flag was different. It had served, too, in a sense -- a symbol for all of their parents, some of whom are military and some of whom are or have been overseas fighting in the war in Iraq.

Even at 5 years old, they know the meaning of fighting for freedom because many of their parents have had to leave for months to do so.

But the kindergartners weren't the only ones at Tommy's Road who showed their respect to those who have served and continue to serve their country. The older students had Memorial Day celebrations of their own.

The second-grade class held a flag parade, had several moments of silence around the flagpole outside of the school and talked about the different parts of the nation's armed forces.

The fourth-grade class then gathered around the flagpole to observe a moment of silence and to talk about why they were proud to be Americans.

Keke Scott said she is proud to be an American "because God blesses America."

Scherita Taylor and Tristan Hatcher said they were happy to be Americans because they could choose her education, and Veah Velasco said she was proud of the country's "strong patriotism."

Kierra Christie was just happy she lives "in a great country," and Miranda Blizzard is happy she can live where she wants.

Samantha Reinier, Daek-won Sample and Lorenzo Deans are proud that Ameri-cans can choose their religion.

Ryan Swisher was proud of the soldiers, the reason, he said, because they "protect everyone."

Many of the children also spoke of freedom.

Corey Stuckey talked about freedom of speech, and Madison Barnett said she was proud to be an American because of the "freedom to soar."

And for Joel Crawford, being an American means he can be anything and anyone he wants, he said.

After everyone spoke, the whole class sang "God Bless the U.S.A." As they went through the verses, they sang louder, and their smiles got wider, as they said the words, "... and I proudly stand up next to you to defend her still today, and there ain't no doubt I love this land. God bless the U.S.A."

Tommy's Road wasn't the only school that had fun celebrating on Saturday.

Meadow Lane Elementary School held a Military Family Appreciation Day, where students and staff welcomed parents to come and mark the day with their children.

From a parade of flags where every child had his or her own tiny flag and a moment of silence, to a game of "Are You Smarter than a Meadow Lane Student?" complete with prizes and treating parents to lunch, the day was a time for fun, food and family.

"It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, all those little smiling faces with flags and singing the songs," assistant principal Tameka Allen said. "Everyone was just so happy to be here. It was like a big family cookout out there."

Several other area schools also had Memorial Day celebrations.

Many sang patriotic songs and talked about the country's military and those who have sacrificed their lives for their country.

Carver Heights Elementary School made a human flag on the school lawn.

Fremont STARS Elementary and Brogden Primary schools had patriotic parades.

Dillard Middle School and Northwest Elementary School integrated Memorial Day activities into their lessons, and Eastern Wayne Elementary School held a flag ceremony.

Rosewood Elementary School had children write stories and poems and make crafts and PowerPoint presentations, all about America.

Rosewood Middle School's principal read the significance of Memorial Day while students read stories and poems and made timelines of wars.