STRONG – Veterans from American Legion Norton-Wuori Post #61 in Kingfield visited students at MSAD 58’s Day Mountain Regional Middle School in Strong last Thursday. Joining the youth for lunch in the cafeteria, Jim Williamson, John Maynard, Robert Rogers, Tom O’Hara, James Davis, and Terry Wyman, all Army Veterans, talked to those at their tables about why Veterans’ Day is such an important national observance. They also answered questions and shared stories about their own experiences in the service.
Following lunch, a special assembly was held in the gymnasium/auditorium. The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America was recited. Participants in the Annual Patriots’ Pen Competition, Vivian Davis, Avery Pratt and Brook Wilkins were recognized and their essays shared. The theme for this year’s competition was “Why America Inspires Me”.
On a bit of a lighter note, John Maynard, who was also the Boys’ B Team Soccer Coach, enlisted four volunteers from the audience to demonstrate one of the training exercises he’d taught his players, not only for physical training, but, even more importantly, to establish a strong bond amongst soldiers… the four-man push-up. Turns out the boys’ team had already demonstrated many push ups at the girls’ game vs Maranacook: ten for every goal Day Mountain scored and five for every save they made – a total of 155 push ups!
Next on the program was a refresher on how to properly fold the American flag. Students took the floor by class, grades 5 – 8, to practice as Jim Davis read the meanings of the twelve folds. This especially formal ceremony represents the religious principles on which America was originally founded.
When the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost as a reminder of America’s national motto: “In God We Trust”. It is in the shape of a cocked hat in remembrance of the soldiers who served under General George Washington and the sailors and marines who served under Captain John Paul Jones and who have been followed by their comrades and shipmates in the Armed Forces of the United States of America throughout history, “preserving for us the rights, privileges, and freedoms we enjoy today.”
The final piece of the inside assembly was the explanation of the setting of “The Table Set for One” and how to properly retire flags that are tattered and worn.
The Table Set for One, placed at the center of the presentation, was explained as follows:
“It is set with one place setting, symbolizing the fact that a member of the armed forces is missing from his/her home and family. These missing servicemen/women are referred to as POWs (Prisoners or War) and MIAs (Missing in Action).
Every item on the small table has its own special symbolism, as follows: “We call your attention to this small table, which occupies a place of dignity and honor near the head table.
It is set for one, symbolizing the fact that members of our armed forces are missing from our ranks. They are referred to as POWs and MIAs.
We call them comrades.
They are unable to be with their loved ones and families tonight, so we join together to pay our humble tribute to them, and bear witness to their continued absence.
This table, set for one, is small, symbolizing the frailty of one prisoner, alone against his or her suppressors.
The tablecloth is white, symbolic of the purity of their intentions to respond to their country’s call to arms.
The single red rose in the vase signifies the blood they may have shed in sacrifice to ensure the freedom of our beloved United States of America. This rose also reminds us of the family and friends of our missing comrades who keep the faith, while awaiting their return.
The red ribbon on the vase represents an unyielding determination, a proper accounting of our comrades who are not among us.
The lemon on the plate reminds us of their bitter fate.
The salt on the plate reminds us of the countless fallen tears of families as they wait.
The glass is inverted. They cannot toast with us this night. The chair is empty. They are not here.
The candle is reminiscent of the light of hope which lives in our hearts to illuminate their way home, away from their captors, to the open arms of a grateful nation.
The American flag reminds us that many of them may never return – and have paid the supreme sacrifice to insure our freedom.”
A short prayer was offered at the closing: “Let us remember and never forget their sacrifice. May God forever watch over them and protect them and their families.”
It was stressed that this unique ceremony is to “compel us to never forget our comrades” and to share with loved ones still present.
Following the lessons in the gym, everyone reconvened on the soccer field behind the school. Here, each student was given a small American flag which had been previously determined to be no longer serviceable. These had been collected previously from the graves of Veterans at the Strong Town Cemetery on Route 149 and a collection bucket in Kingfield.
Burning is the proper fate of a flag which has been “worn out in worthy service”.
Youth and the adults, forming an especially solemn line, carried the flags to the fire and placed them reverently into the flames.
The patriotic ceremony was closed with the singing of The Star-Spangled Banner.
Story and photos by Paula Kane.