Sharpsburg honor

Students place flags at national cemetery

Students place flags at national cemetery

May 25, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

Jodie McCoy said Monday she was proud to be one of 50 Sharpsburg Elementary School students placing flags on graves at Antietam National Cemetery.

McCoy, 10, said she was proud to be doing the work "because you are helping them and showing respect."

"It is fun, and it is honoring people who made us free," Kelsey Moore, 11, said.

"It is actually fun. It is great to be doing it for those who fought for us," Allen Thomas, 11, said.

Students from three of the school's fifth-grade classes put flags on most of the grave sites where almost 5,100 veterans and their spouses are buried.


Teacher Cynthia Weaver has been taking fifth-grade students to the cemetery and encouraging them to leave flags there for about 18 years as part of an annual community service project, she said.

The project comes before Memorial Day weekend. Sharpsburg will host Memorial Day activities, including a parade at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

John Howard, superintendent of the cemetery and Antietam National Battlefield for the National Park Service, said the students making the trip are usually loud and excited when they arrive and gradually become more quiet and reflective as they work around the grave sites.

That was the case Monday.

The students put flags on all of the gravestones except for about 350, Howard said. Flags are saved for a group of Ohio students who have come to the cemetery for about four years to put flags on the graves of Ohio veterans. They are expected to come Thursday, Howard said.

The Sharpsburg students worked in pairs to place the flags.

"It is an honor. All these people died for the country," said Jay Minnick Jr., 10.

Justin Ingram, 10, said he thought the activity shows respect. He said he thinks his great-great-grandfather is buried at the cemetery.

Before the Sharpsburg students began their work, Gordie Thorpe, a park ranger and education coordinator, spoke to them.

"This is an honor. Think about what these people represent. We do appreciate and thank you for being here today," she said.

Weaver gave them one last instruction: "This is not a playground. ... Make sure you treat the flag with respect."

The students began methodically placing flags at the graves of veterans, most of them from the Civil War but others from World War I, World War II, the Spanish-American War and the Korean War.

After the students finished, Weaver encouraged them to look at the grave marker for Patrick Roy, one of only two veterans to be buried at the cemetery after it was closed to burials in 1953.

Roy died in the Oct. 12, 2000, bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen.

Howard and Thorpe praised the school event.

"I think it is extremely important," Thorpe said. "This is here in their hometown, and some of these kids have probably never walked these grounds. It is a nice tradition."

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