Elementary school students learn about flag; donation to local VFW

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Second grade students at H.T. Jaramillo Community School watched as their school’s old, tattered flag was replaced with a pristine flag during a flag replacement ceremony in April.

On Flag Day, Thursday, June 14, that same flag will lay on top of the fire pit used to properly dispose of local flags during the flag retirement ceremony at the Veteran of Foreign Wars Chavez-Curran Post 2387 in Belen. The ceremony will be held at 11 a.m. in front of Belen’s VFW.

Abigail R. Ortiz-News-Bulletin photo: Cindy McCall, left, a second grade substitute teacher at H.T. Jaramillo Community School, presented the school’s old, tattered flag to Charles Cox, center, an adjunct member of VFW Chavez-Curran Post 2387, and Belen Fire Chief Manny Garcia in May. The presentation of the flag was part of a two-week curriculum McCall developed to teach students about the American flag.

Thursday celebrates the nation’s adoption of the United States flag in 1777.

Jaramillo students learned detailed information about the American flag’s history, such as the meaning of its colors and designs, the pledge of allegiance and the country’s national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner,” through hands-on projects for three weeks leading up to the flag replacement ceremony.

Cindy McCall, a long-term substitute teacher at Jaramillo, developed this civics unit, “Proud to be an American,” for second graders in her class.

“I felt very strongly about wanting to pass on the information,” McCall said.

This material was also implemented by other second grade teachers.

During the curriculum, McCall and her students noticed that the flag, flying high at the school’s entrance, needed to be replaced. The class gathered around the school’s flag pole, along with another second grade class, for a ceremony, where they watched as the flag was taken down, folded and replaced.

“They touched it so gently, with such respect and honor,” McCall said.

Students then presented the old flag to members of the VFW and Belen Fire Department on May 4.

Charles Cox, a VFW post adjunct, informed students that there are certain protocols that need to be followed to honor the flag.

When retiring flags, VFW members send a batch of them to Terrace Grove Cemetery to be cremated. The ashes are spread over a wooden fire pit, which will have one flag out stretched on top. The pit is lit on Flag Day during a flag retirement ceremony.

“Many Americans died defending our flag — some are still in conflict,” Cox said. “It’s something special and very precious to us. The flag is what we stand for.”

The flag, a symbol treated with respect, deserves a proper retirement, said Belen’s VFW Commander Gill Mullins.

In class, students wrote essays where they had to tell somebody, who was seeing the American flag for the first time, about it, and where they deciphered the meaning of the nation’s pledge of allegiance.

One students wrote that they felt happy to have freedom and courage.

“I like to see the flag. I respect it and would take care of it,” their essay stated.

After describing what the flag stood for — freedom, the American people and the symbol of this country — another student said they felt proud to be an American every time they looked at the flag.

At the end of the curriculum, each student received a small pin of the flag, which they wore with pride, McCall said.

Old, tattered flags can be dropped off year round in front of the VFW in a drop-off box for proper disposal.


-- Email the author at aortiz@news-bulletin.com.