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Navy veterans bring Stars and Stripes' story to Wilson Christian students

| Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Sam Levy, left, and George Diehl of the Mid-Mon Valley Shipmates explain the significance of the American flag's design to students at Wilson Christian Academy on Friday.

The Mid-Mon Valley Shipmates shared history and etiquette surrounding the American flag with Wilson Christian Academy students in an early Veterans Day program on Friday.

The organization's members, all of whom served in the Navy, spoke briefly about their own time served during the World War II, Korea and Vietnam eras, but the majority of the program was centered on the red, white and blue.

“We travel to schools all year round,” Barry Anders of Monongahela said. “It's important for kids to understand what the flag means. Patriotism is not a part of the country like it once was.”

Informing students when to stand in the flag's presence and when to place their hands over their hearts, Anders said the Shipmates are teaching not only respect for the American flag, but for the country itself.

“How can we be true to a flag when it is just a piece of cloth?” Anders asked a group of students ranging from kindergartners to fifth-graders at the West Mifflin school. He explained that the flag is symbolic of the nation and its freedoms.

The U.S. flag, adopted in 1777, is the fourth oldest national flag in the world.

Shipmates explained the significance of the union, or blue field, featuring stars that represent each of the 50 states. The 13 stripes — seven red and six white — represent the original British colonies that formed the United States.

First-grade teacher Laura Erb said students have a simple understanding of what the flag means.

“They know the flag is symbolic of freedom,” she said.

“We need to teach the history of what these veterans have been through and how they survived. We need to pay homage and say ‘thank you' any chance we get.”

Patrick Maloy, a Duquesne native who resides in North Charleroi, said being a part of the Mid-Mon Valley Shipmates is one of the greatest things he's experienced. With a background in education, he enjoys addressing student groups.

“This is an important type of teaching,” he said. “Growing up in the '50s, we got these lessons on TV with the early morning shows. The day started with a salute to the flag and the songs of each branch of the military. You don't get that anymore.”

Maloy said it's the responsibility of every American to teach what they can to today's youth to instill a respect for the flag and nation.

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or jvertullo@tribweb.com.

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