GASPORT — Royalton-Hartland Elementary School hosted its annual Flag Day ceremony for students on Wednesday morning and a second ceremony in the evening for the community at large.
Teacher Heather Pedini, the main organizer of the ceremonies, said the second one was designed to honor military veterans. Invitations were sent to several local veterans’ organizations.
“The veterans that come here, they just love it. The kids love to see them. They love to see the kids,” Pedini said.
Each year, the school’s Flag Day ceremony has a different theme and revolves around a significant event in American history. This year’s ceremonies highlighted the Korean War. Thirteen students were selected by Pedini to carry flags and lead attendees to the morning ceremony, which included the student body and invited veterans, into the auditorium. Principal Donna VanSlyke welcomed the school’s special guests and students sang patriotic-themed songs including “American Heroes,” “God Bless USA,” “The Brave” and “American Heart.”
“The Brave” and “American Heart” were new additions to the ceremony. Music teacher Kathy Pease said she chose them for “the significance of the lyrics. The lyrics express honor of those who were involved in the war.”
Pedini gave a presentation on the Korean War and how to properly recite the Pledge of Allegiance. After several more songs by the students, Pedini unveiled a scale replica of the national Korean War Veterans Memorial that she constructed specially for Flag Day.
Veterans in the audience seemed pleased with the way the morning ceremony turned out. David Patton, 64, said he thought Roy Hart Elementary was one of the most “patriotic” schools he has visited. Korean War veteran Herbert Loesch, 88, rated the ceremony as “excellent.”
Roy Hart’s Flag Day ceremony has evolved over the years, according to Pedini.
“For quite a few years, we had speakers come in and they were wonderful, but it was like the kids would lose interest, almost, because a lot of (the speakers) didn’t know how to talk on their level,” she said. After her first turn at organizing the event, she decided to try to do something “bigger” and different.
Since then, she said, “I learned to play the snare drum and came in as the soldier of the War of 1812 for the Star Spangled Banner. ... I have done Betsy Ross; I acted her out. I built the talking heads of Mount Rushmore and their mouths moved ... . I built a Lunar module and came out as Neil Armstrong to talk about the six flags that are on the moon. And then last year I did the Iwo Jima monument.”
Flag Day is about more than flags, according to Pedini.
“Flag Day here is not just about, this is how you take care of your flag and we’ll bring the old one out and raise the new one — which is fine and a lot of places do that — but here we wanted our kids to get more history out of it,” she said.
The school’s Flag Day committee is happy to let Pedini take charge of the ceremony every year, according to the principal.
“(Pedini is) very patriotic. She’s very loyal and just very committed to what she’s doing,” VanSlyke said.