By Sara Kraft
Special to the Catholic Key
ST. JOSEPH — From the bright red, white and blue balloons, to the streamers in St. Francis Xavier School gym on November 11 – two things were clear. St. Francis Xavier School is proud to be American and grateful for our veterans. Twenty-something veterans beamed as the Student Council members led by Spanish teacher Mrs. Julia Machado honored their sacrifices for our country during an all-school assembly.
For four weeks, the St. Francis Xavier School Student Council, comprised of student representatives from grades four through eight, researched, prepared, and practiced for this Veterans Day Assembly. They invited all Veterans with any connection to St. Francis Xavier School – St. Francis Xavier parishioners, parents, grandparents, and other family members.
As the veterans were arriving, Central High School junior and St. Francis Xavier School alum Matthan Mrkvicka led seventh and eighth grade students in a ceremony to retire St. Francis Xavier’s American flag. Tattered, faded, and worn, it had served our country and St. Francis Xavier School and Parish with honor.
Soon Matthan will educate these students on how and why to retire the flag as a portion of their American History class. Before the ceremony began, Matthan reminded students, “This ceremony is the equivalent of the solemn nature of a funeral. We are putting the flag to rest, as it has served our country well.”
This ceremony was a portion of Matthan’s Eagle Scout project. After noticing several flags in the St. Joseph area that needed to be retired, Matthan determined the flags were not being respectfully retired when necessary simply because many Americans do not know how or why to properly retire American flags. Matthan decided to educate the students and show them how to retire American flags. Matthan currently has six flags in possession he will retire with the help of his Boy Scout Troop 31.
Principal Darin Pollard reminded the students there was a difference between retiring the flag and burning it. Burning the flag without its proper ceremony has a negative connotation and shows disrespect for not only the flag itself but disrespect for our entire country and those veterans that have fought for our freedom.
As the flag ceremony concluded with the raising of a new flag on the flag pole, several adults in attendance marveled at the respect shown for the flag. As they walked into the gym, transformed into a patriotic site, the twenty-something veterans in attendance became St. Francis Xavier School’s VIPs – very important guests of honor.
After Father Bill Walter led a beautiful blessing and prayer, the Student Council was delighted to begin their entertaining and educational skit. During their skit, when asked what a veteran was, a student quibbled, “A veteran is a who not a what.” Another student reminded the assembly that females can be veterans too. In fact, several female veterans and active military and guard members were in attendance, including third grade teacher, Carly Edwards.
Students then explained, with the help of a PowerPoint presentation they designed themselves, about the various branches of the military – including the Army, Marines, National Guard, Navy, and Air Force. The entire school and assembly applauded as each branch was called to stand up and be recognized for their sacrifices for our country. Then, the eighth graders led the entire assembly in singing, “Proud to Be An American” by Lee Greenwood. Attending veterans were invited to mention their branch and their connection to St. Francis Xavier School.
Seventh grader Courtney Medinger said they put this assembly together because “It takes a lot of courage and strength to fight for our country.” Her dad is a veteran. Several other seventh graders who helped with the assembly remarked that due to what they learned working on the assembly, they would thank a veteran the next time they met one.
As the assembly ended, the veterans were given small gifts including a St. Christopher medal, a certificate, and a cookie.
As the veterans were invited to share a bit about their experiences, one veteran remarked, “I’m very proud of all of you. What you’ve done here today means a lot to all of us.”