Waving the flag proudly

Last spring, the Clarion shared a story about Jan Bobek's class at Soldotna Elementary School. The fourth-and fifth-graders, working with local veteran Herb Stettler, had undertaken a project to fold small American flags to be sent to members of the armed forces stationed overseas.

"A flag for your pocket so you can always carry a piece of your home," is how Stettler described the project.

In addition to supporting the troops in a tangible way, students also got a lesson in citizenship and civics you just can't find in a text book.

But, as we recently learned when Bobek dropped by the Clarion, the story doesn't stop there. Since they've been sending the flags out, Bobek's class has been hearing back from many of the soldiers who have received the small piece of home. They've had correspondence from men and women serving in all branches of the military, many of them stationed in some very dangerous places. They've heard from high-ranking officers, enlisted men and women, and civilian government employees.

There's a similar theme to just about every email, postcard and letter the class receives: Thank you for the show of support from the homefront. They share how the arrival of a box small American flags was a morale boost for their unit, how they carry their flag with them, tucked safely away in a pocket. One flag even made its way back to Bobek's class, after it was flown on combat missions.

Bobek said her class also heard from a local soldier who serves as a medevac helicopter pilot. He said that after wounded soldiers are loaded on the helicopter and their conditions are stabilized, a flag is given to them, slipped onto their chest, something to hold near their heart.

Here's how one serviceman expressed his gratitude: "Know that the small flag I carry with me is a reminder of home, and that when I get lonely or a little homesick, it's something I can grab on to and remember the good times back home and helps me get through tough times over here. Thank you very much."

Folding small flags and sending them to soldiers may seem to be a small and unimportant. But that simple gesture means the world to those who receive them.

We'd like to add our thanks and appreciation to the students in Bobek's class, and to all who take the time to show their appreciation for our troops. It makes a difference.

And for those who have a loved one stationed in harm's way, Bobek's students are still folding flags. Contact Stettler at 262-1237 to pass along a mailing address.

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