More than 800 flags line the Mohawk Area elementary school driveway, each placed by a student following Wednesday's 10th annual Mohawk Elementary Memorial Day Program.
Some 43 veterans, most of whom live in the school district, attended the program which featured band and choral offerings and essays by the students as well as military personnel who explained to the early elementary school students the importance and meaning of Memorial Day.
The group of veterans included two from World War II, one of whom had been a prisoner of war, along with veterans from the Korean War, Vietnam War and most recent wars in the Middle East.
Prior to the arrival of the veterans and guests, elementary Principal George Sperdute primed the youngsters on pride and respect.
“The flag deserves respect,” he said. “It is not a toy but a symbol of freedom. Our guests today went through a lot for that flag.”
Students were encouraged to wave their flags and applaud as the veterans entered.
Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Claycomb of the Army National Guard explained the meaning of Memorial Day, once called Decoration Day.
“We honor people who are no longer here,” he said. “Memorial Day is close to the hearts of all service men and women. We know who we’ve lost, and it never gets easier.”
He spoke of a recent trip to New York City where he visited the National 9/11 Memorial, the site of the former World Trade Center that was attacked by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001.
“That day transformed the U.S. military,” he said.
“Many paid the ultimate price but we knew what we had to do because of what happened on that day. Many men and women proudly served.”
He also commended the Vietnam-era veterans.
“You had no choice,” he said. “You had to leave family and friends. You did so much for your country and many made the ultimate sacrifice. Be proud to be an American.”
Retired Marine Staff Sgt. David Cain works with the Wounded Warrior program that helps post 9/11 servicemen and women by offering mental health and physical therapies designed to help soldiers transition back into his or her community.
“It’s nice to see young people show appreciation for what veterans do,” he said.
“I was a Marine for 18 years,” he said.
“There were good times, there were bad times, but I am glad that I did it.”
The program also included sixth-graders Jared Kauffman and Emilee Masters reading their essays on “Why I honor the Flag.” Taylor Freet explained the “Fallen Comrade Table,” which was on display and Delani Harman read a poem.
Musical selections were by music teacher Jason Zeh and the elementary band.
Taps was by Nick Keklak, Molly Fitzsimmons, Scotty McConnell and Kara Kulinski. Teacher Justin Addicott led the elementary chorus in “Colonel Bogey’s Grand Old Flag.”
Vocal selections included the high school women’s choir singing the national anthem, teacher Jason Bonnar leading first-graders and “any student who remembered the words” in “Red, White & Blue,” and LuAnn Miller leading the kindergarten students performing “Proud to be an American.”
Serving as masters of ceremonies were Emanuele Retort, Jaxon Schoedel, Avery Sun and Carmen Hart.
The flag was presented by 14 members of Cub Scout Troop 720 and Boy Scout Troop 721.