Folded into Post 504’s lesson about the American flag, as distinct as a right-angle crease, is commentary about the virtue of showing respect.
For yourself, for each other, for our country, for the sacrifices others have made to ensure out freedom and, of course, for the flag.
“I respect this because I fought for it, for my freedom and for my family,” Buddy Jones said on a recent morning at Northeast Elementary School. Before him sat the school’s fifth graders; behind him, a flag stood on stage.
“This flag is freedom,” said Jones, who joined the fight in Vietnam at age 19.
Jones and Jim Rouse, both veterans and both members of the American Legion’s Carl Lee Jr. Post 504 in Falling Creek, will have visited by week’s end all LCPS elementary schools and made their presentation on the flag to some 600 fifth graders in the district. This is the fifth year Post 504 has taken on that duty.
The American flag is central to their lesson: a few words about Betsy Ross, a quick quiz about the number and meaning of the stars and the strips, information on when you shouldn’t fly the flag and how to properly dispose of it when it becomes soiled or tattered, a stern admonishment against misappropriating the flag’s design as clothing or any other unauthorized decoration.
But mostly Rouse and Jones want to remind young people of advantages they have as Americans and probably take for granted. Acknowledging those advantages, they think, will foster appreciation.
“I don’t think students are being told how important patriotism is and how important the flag is,” Rouse said after the Northeast presentation. “This is the greatest country in the world. They can do anything they want to do.”
Like all LCPS students, those at Northeast begin each school day by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. An American flag flies in front of that school and every other in the district. Yet Post 504’s lesson makes a stronger impression, principal Felicia Solomon thinks, and deepens students’ understanding of the rituals and routine.
“I think it’s vital that our students have a real understanding of what the American flag represents,” Solomon said. “For them to be proud and productive citizens, they need to be aware of the rights they have as Americans that people in some other countries don’t have.”
Fifth grader Precious Burney understood the lesson. “I thought it was helpful and important,” she said in review. “I learned you should never throw away the flag.”