Flags for Freedom

A student accepts a flag from a veteran
Locust Valley High School’s fourth annual Flags for Freedom ceremony was a patriotic tribute to members of the military and an important lesson for the high school’s graduating seniors.
 
The event, sponsored by Operation Democracy and organized by that group’s President Kay Weninger and high school social studies curriculum coordinator David Ethé, included honoring local veterans for their service and presenting each member of the Class of 2018 with their own American flag, hand folded by members of the Bayville and Locust Valley American Legion posts. These veterans also handed the flags to each senior in a symbolic ceremony.
 
Ms. Weninger told the students that freedoms they have are because of the sacrifices made by members of the military and that the flags they are receiving are a reminder of those freedoms. “Today we will be presenting each of you with an American flag,” she said. “This is a true symbol of America. We are here to remember our fallen, honor our veterans, our community, our country and our graduating seniors.”
 
Guest speaker Jay Erskin, tactical operations officer and Blackhawk pilot in the United States Army, shared his military story, explaining that serving his country gave him purpose. “It is with great respect for our red, white and blue, our nation’s flag, that I asked you to cherish this flag. It is a very unique thing.” He reminded them that the flags they received represent their very freedom and encouraged them to read the copy of the Constitution they also received. Mr. Erskin said he understands that everyone cannot serve in the military, but encouraged the students to find some way to give back to the country or their community.
 
The Bayville American Legion Robert H. Spittel Post 1285 and Locust Valley American Legion Howard Van Wagner Post 962  opened the ceremony with the presentation of colors. These veterans spent hours prior to the event folding the flags for the seniors.
 
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Anna F. Hunderfund spoke to the seniors about remembering the sacrifices our military makes. Mr. Ethé also shared the meaning of Memorial Day and the importance of our flag, our veterans and our military.
 
Student government members Bridget Bianco, Leonardo D’Auria-Gupta and Ella Paz presented readings as veterans demonstrated the proper folding of a flag and then presented that flag to Mr. Erskin.
 
The high school concert chorale, under the direction of Ms. Allison Hungate Wood, performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” along with “United We Stand” and “A Million Dreams.”
 
The district thanks all the guests and organizers who made the ceremony special for the veterans who attended and for our graduating seniors.