Notre Dame Elementary School and American Legion Post #23 want to make sure Americans never forget how important the United States flag is and, especially, how important it is to teach the younger generation all about it, so they, too, don’t forget.
The Legion Post recently donated an American flag to the school, which the school unveiled during a ceremony attended by all the students. The Legion Honor Guard conducted a flag ceremony for the students in the Holy Redeemer Activity Center. All the parents were invited to attend also, if they could.
The flag dedication started with local dentist Dr. Robert Nelson, who is also a member of the Knights of Columbus. KoC sponsored a poster contest, and each child that made a poster received a certificate.
“We had three age groups — young, middle and then a little bit older. I think every kid made a poster, and we gave them a certificate,” Nelson says.
“On a recent morning after school had started, the Knights of Columbus went over to the school early in the morning to give all these presentations out and to thank the students. The kids had to turn completely around to say the pledge to a flag mounted on the wall by the cafeteria. A lady named Sherri Blackburn came up to me, and said, ‘Doctor, do you have a flag on a stand on a pole we could put on the stage so the children would not have to turn around to say the pledge, and that would look more appropriate than the one on the wall?’”
Nelson is also a member of the Legion Honor Guard, and recalls, “I saw Kenny Crawford, and I told him about the flag problem at the school.” Crawford said he would check with the National American Legion.
“About a week and half after that, Crawford called me and said, ‘Doc, I’ve got you a flag.’ I said, ‘How much?’ and he said, ‘I just told them what a great thing you wanted to do, and they donated it,’” Nelson says.
With that, Nelson planned a ceremony with the American Legion in attendance. He coordinated the date with Father Joseph Yokum at Holy Redeemer.
“We chose the 13th at 8 o’clock, and I told the American Legion Honor Guard, who are all veterans, about it. Susan Frazier, who is our chaplain and is a Korean War veteran, said the Honor Guard all volunteered and said that it would be a distinct memorable honor to do that. They had never done that in their lives. They had presented a lot of flags to the families and things, but had never made a presentation to a school. They said, ‘This is the greatest thing ever!’”
Nelson then talked to principal Josh McMackin and told him the Legion Post was going to make the flag dedication an educational presentation, and that he wanted it to be enjoyable for the students as he emphasized respect for the flag.
“It took about 50 minutes as we were trying to not make it too long for the children,” Nelson says. “Dave Timmerman, who is an eight-year veteran, gave the history of the flag.” Nelson also made sure to include in the ceremony the 13 steps for the folding of the flag, because he believed it was important for the children to know.
During the ceremony, Nelson said, “They sang ‘My Country Tis of Thee,’ and Jordan Werring, musical director for St. Mary’s and Holy Redeemer Church, had the words printed for everyone to know the words to sing.” Nelson humorously observed how the children, even the littlest ones, were sitting on the floor, and all the students stood for the pledge and put their hands over their hearts, except for one, and he was offering a salute, just like the Legion was doing. He said he guessed the young man wanted to be like the men in uniform. Dr. Nelson said Notre Dame Elementary students were so respectful and intent on all that was going on at the ceremony.
Nelson said Beecher Wright, commander of American Legion Post #23, also read a piece during the ceremony that Nelson and Timmerman had written about the colors and flag etiquette.
American Legion Post #23 donated the indoor flag that sits on a brass gold-plated stand and a gold staff. Nelson credited Knights of Columbus and American Legion Post #23 for the success of the ceremony, acknowledging that he “just got it started.”
The Notre Dame Elementary students now no longer have to turn around to honor the flag when they say the Pledge of Allegiance. Nelson, American Legion Post #23 and Knights of Columbus are to be commended for what they gave the students at Notre Dame and the gift that teaches them the importance of the American flag.
Reach Kimberly Jenkins 740-353-3101 ext. 1928