Written by Brian Bonds, a 6th-8th grade science teacher at Cheraw Colorado High School in Cheraw, Colorado. Bonds is also the high school student council sponsor and helps with the annual Cheraw School District’s Veterans Day celebration. Bonds shared with us what the U.S. flag and being an American means to him.
Cheraw School District has had an assembly on Veterans Day (or the closest school day to November 11th) for the past several years. I have organized this event since 2018. I am not a veteran; however, I believe that we as teachers need to be leading by example. If we promote a big event recognizing our local veterans, then our students will understand the importance of recognizing and thanking our veterans for their service.
We have a Family, Career and Community Leaders of America chapter at our school. Luckily, we had a student (Trey Pearce) who needed to do a community service project, so I had this student, as a freshman, take on the event with me. We agreed that I would find the speaker for the event, and he would find addresses of local veterans, talk to the local American Legion Post 9 aboutpresenting the colors and also talk with the elementary staff about our plans for the assembly.
When Trey began talking with our local Veterans Group, they decided that they would like to start presenting a new flag to the school each year to begin flying on Veterans Day and to be retired at the next year’s Veterans Day Assembly. The first year we retired the old flag, the Cheraw Area Veterans group and the school donated the used flag to the oldest living veteran graduate of Cheraw High School. What an honor it was to be a part of this ceremony! Something that made this event even more special was that the 4th grade class is tasked with raising and retiring the flag each day, and the veteran we donated the flag to had two great-granddaughters in 4th grade, so they got to fold the flag for the last time before we presented it to him! (This gives me chills just talking about it again!)
Each year, when we start planning what the event will look like, Trey and I talk and try to make a plan for how we can make the event even better than the previous year. We have had speakers with the following credentials: Army Green Beret, Air Force Brigadier General, Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant and Air Force Colonel.
Being at a small school (215 total students in pre-school through 12th grade), we try to incorporate the entire school into the event. Rather than just having the veterans in attendance sitting in chairs to be recognized, we have asked the elementary classes to teach one branch of the military:
- Kindergarten: Learns about the U.S. Flag
- 1st Grade: Learns about the Navy
- 2nd Grade: Learns about the Air Force
- 3rd Grade: Learns about the Army
- 4th Grade: Learns about the Marine Corps
- 5th Grade: Learns about the Coast Guard
We play each military branch’s song and march the class in with the veterans from that branch. A very touching moment was when the kindergarten students came in waving their American flags and the entire student body began singing, “You’re a Grand Old Flag.” In talking with the veterans and the speakers who have been in attendance, they are most touched by the students who come up and thank them personally for their service.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, Trey and I did not want to let it ruin our celebration. Rather, we took the opportunity to do something out of the ordinary, and we held a virtual celebration. Our speaker is actually from Colorado Springs; however, he currently lives in Niceville, Fla., and he works at Tyndall Air Force Base. He was willing to do a virtual presentation for our school, so we could still recognize our veterans. Since we could not have visitors at the school, after the presentation, the high school student council as well as the Future Business Leaders of America members went out and delivered a small gift as a token of our appreciation to each local veteran’s home.
This event has touched me personally and I look forward to it each and every year.
You’re a Grand Old Flag Lyrics
You're a grand old flag,
You're a high flying flag
And forever in peace may you wave.
You're the emblem of
The land I love.
The home of the free and the brave.
Ev'ry heart beats true
'neath the Red, White and Blue,
Where there's never a boast or brag.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
Keep your eye on the grand old flag.
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