Poppies, presentations mark pupils' rites for Memorial Day

Schools honor veterans, victims of Sept. 11

May 26, 2002|By Carolynne Fitzpatrick | Carolynne Fitzpatrick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

With patriotic fanfare, pupils at Sandymount Elementary School honored the nation's war dead, bestowing wreaths and poppies to representatives from branches of the armed services.

Sandymount's annual Remembrance Service began outside the school Friday morning with a trumpet salute by Robert Coffey, owner of Coffey's Music in Westminster.

"We are here today to honor those Americans who sacrificed their lives in order that we are able to live in freedom and pursue happiness," said Sgt. 1st Class James O'Connor of the Maryland National Guard.

With "The Star-Spangled Banner" playing, the American flag was raised. The flag, presented to the school by Del. Nancy R. Stocksdale, "touched the hollowed ground at the Pentagon, after the 9-11 terrorist attacks," O'Connor said.

Sandymount wasn't the only Carroll school to remember the victims of the attacks Sept. 11. On Wednesday, William Winchester Elementary School in Westminster dedicated a "rain garden" and marble bench to honor the heroes and victims of the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

At Sandymount, military recruiters accepted a patriotic wreath on behalf of those who have fallen and those who continue to fight.

Charles Haertig, 87, a Westminster resident and veteran of World War II, attended the ceremony with his grandson, Navy Sgt. Rob Marchand.

"It's very wonderful to be here," Haertig said.

Haertig joined the Navy in 1941 and fought in Normandy. He served four years and one month, he said. During those four years, he fought in some of the war's toughest battles.

"It's great that they honor the guys who fought in previous wars," Marchand said.

Haertig and Army veteran Allen Willoughby accepted wreaths on behalf of fallen comrades, veterans, and the law enforcement officers, firefighters and rescue workers who serve the nation every day.

The students and their guests were given poppies to lay at each wreath or in a collection basket. The poppy is a symbol of life and peace, according to a World War I poem, "In Flanders Fields," by John McCrea.

Fifth-grader Katie Keydash read the poem, which refers to poppies blooming on a blood-soaked ground after an intense Civil War battle. No one believed anything would grow on the ground again.

Civil War re-enactors attended the ceremony to commemorate the beginning of Memorial Day celebrations. The tradition of remembering and honoring fallen Americans began shortly after the Civil War in New York. Eventually, the day came to honor everyone who has died to preserve freedom.

"I'm honored to participate in such a nicely planned event," O'Connor said. "It's a tribute to the men and women who have given lives in the fight for freedom and the military service members fighting for the war on terrorism."

The program began last year after a World War II veteran approached Sandymount's PTA with a concern that the school was not promoting patriotism, said John Keydash, PTA presi- dent.

William Winchester's rain garden consists of layers of mulch, sand, soil, gravel and drain pipe, and is approximately 20 feet by 20 feet. Created by fifth-graders, the garden is filled with native plants, including Black-Eyed Susans, blueberry bushes, sunflowers and azaleas.

During a ceremony, pupils explained how this project was part of their year-long curriculum. They wrote letters to show how the rain garden would benefit the school environment and the Chesapeake Bay. They created a budget, a scale diagram of the site and a maintenance schedule.

The school raised $1,500 through grants from Bear Branch Nature Center and the Chesapeake Bay Trust.

"The students have done a great thing here," said Lee Arbaugh, father of David Arbaugh, who played trumpet for the ceremony. "They learned some good lessons, not just about planning, but about community service, too."

"I liked the whole experience, from calling businesses and writing the president, to actually planting the plants," said fifth-grader Monica Lemke.

"This project was a great lesson in many ways for these students," said Larry E. Lamon, father of fifth-grade pupil Chris Lamon. "It's a nice way to honor the people who perished on Sept. 11th."

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