As he accepted the shiny gold Medal of Gallantry from the citizens group Veterans For Peace, J. Alesandro Kendall stood at attention.
Kendall, an 8-year-old Brehms Lane Elementary School third-grader, was honored today in the school's auditorium for his pacifist views about the Persian Gulf war as 150 classmates cheered.
"This is a young profile in courage," said Samuel L. Banks, the executive director of the bureau of instruction for the Baltimore public school system. "What you have done, we want all of our students to do -- to dare to stand for principle."
"War, except in the defense of self, family and home, is immoral," Kendall told his classmates, reading from a prepared statement.
Last month, Kendall said he was jeered by his classmates in school after he refused to write letters to U.S. soldiers in Saudi Arabia and told his teacher he did not want to contribute to a gift box to be sent to the troops.
But since his story was reported, Kendall's classmates have learned a lesson in tolerance and acceptance of different viewpoints, said Principal William Koutrelakos.
The freckle-faced youth has also received letters of encouragement from Baltimore Circuit Court Chief Judge Robert I.H. Hammerman and state Board of Education President Robert C. Embry Jr.
"I am immensely proud to see anyone, particularly one of your young years, be willing to take a stand on what he thinks is right and go against the tide if need be," Hammerman wrote.
After the brief ceremony, some of Kendall's classmates said they had learned a new form of respect.
"I think Alesandro is right and he should stand up for what he thinks is right," said Ruth Blom, 8, who is in Kendall's class.