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Navy vets teach Charleroi Area students about American flag

Jeremy Sellew | The Valley Independent
Charleroi Area sixth graders, from left, Malik Nails, LayLa Tomlin, and Sam Leonetti, get lessons on how to properly fold the American flag during a program by the Mid-Mon Valley Shipmates on Thursday, October 3, 2013.

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Friday, Oct. 4, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

If there's a question on Jeopardy pertaining to the American flag, you can be sure a sixth-grader at Charleroi Area Middle School has the answer.

Students were thoroughly versed in all things “Old Glory” Thursday during a presentation by the Mid-Mon Valley Shipmates in the school auditorium.

The Navy veterans' group demonstrated how to properly fold the flag, describing what each of the folds represents; the story of the Star-Spangled Banner; how to properly stand tall with pride when the flag is approaching and much more.

“I think it's extremely important for us to do these kinds of presentations,” Marshall Lignani said. “We've been doing this since 2008 and there's been a noticeable difference in the number of gatherings we've had.”

Last year, the Shipmates did 33 such programs throughout southwestern Pennsylvania. In addition to Charleroi Area, they will head to Ringgold Elementary North, Fort Cherry, California Area Middle School, Trinity, and Mt. Pleasant, among others.

“The students are very respectful and they learn something each time,” said George Essey, a Shipmate from Monessen. “We usually aim to do fifth grade, but some schools have us inform sixth graders. Believe it or not, we've actually had schools that said they don't want us to do it at their schools.

“Most of the time, though, we have teachers come up to us and tell us that they never knew some of the information we cover. They'll take pictures and send them to us with their thanks. It's very encouraging.”

Mary Tickner, middle school principal, said she's very thankful for the Shipmates and their presentation.

“I think this really reinforces what students are learning at home,” she said. “I think it's wonderful that these veterans volunteer their time and efforts to teaching young kids the true meaning behind and how to respect the flag.”

She said the students enjoy the presentation and generally tell their parents about what they have learned.

“I think it really instills a great lesson for them,” Tickner said of the students.

Yancey Sobek, a sixth-grade social studies teacher at Charleroi Area, should be commended for reaching out to arrange the presentation, Tickner said.

“He puts in a lot of time and effort in making this happen,” Tickner said of Sobek, who was unable to attend the presentation. “This is something that we hope to continue doing year after year.”

The Shipmates went over what kind of conduct is respectful and disrespectful of the flag and how to properly raise and lower the flag.

After the presentation, the students gathered and stood for one final round of applause in recognition of the men who taught them and who fought for their freedom.

“Stand and give these veterans who defended our country a round of applause,” Tickner instructed the students.

But she didn't need to ask, as the students gave the Shipmates a rousing sendoff before heading back to class.

Lignani added that the group doesn't only talk to school children.

“We give presentations to adult organizations, too,” he said.

Any school district or other organization interested in hosting the flag presentation may contact Lignani at 724-379-5659.

Jeremy Sellew is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-684-2667.

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