On the Friday before Memorial Day, some schools started their long weekend early.
At Whitehall Elementary School, students, faculty and staff paused for the 36th year to remember those who died for their country.
“We are here today to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice,” said school Principal David St. Germain as part of the annual school ceremony.
The program was started by then-teacher Joe Capron, who was honored at the 2009 version of the ceremony.
“Mr. Capron put that first ceremony together, which is something that has proudly continued for 36 years,” said St. Germain. “Because of this, we are going to honor a fifth- grade student who demonstrates the qualities of citizenship with the Joe Capron Award, which will be given out each year as long as this program continues.”
Ashlie Dolphin was named the first recipient of the Capron Award, while sixth-grader Cody Garner was the recipient the Gordon Foote Memorial Award and staff member Kathy Greenough was the recipient of the American Legion Service Award.
“Nobody can do it by themselves, and we need the support of everyone in the community,” said American Legion member Jim Lafayette. “Kathy is someone who is always there whenever the school asks of her and whenever we at the Legion have called her with a question or to ask for something.”
Lafayette also spoke to the students about the importance of Memorial Day.
“We are here to honor those who gave their lives for this country,” said Lafayette. “It is a very solemn and special day and I know that your teachers and the school make sure that you understand just what this day means.”
Whitehall Mayor Francis “Fra” Putorti also spoke to the students.
“Today, we honor the men and women who died serving in the military,” said Putorti. “Without them, we may not be able to have a great education like the one that you are getting at Whitehall Elementary School.”
Putorti said that everyone needs to remember those who served and sacrificed for the country.
“Go down to the park in the village and see the Memorial Wall,” he said. “There are all the names of those who served with a star next to those who died in service.”
Along with remembering those who had died in service, Lafayette also referred to those who had been lost in combat.
“When you see the POW/MIA flag, it is flown for those who are missing,” said Lafayette. “We don’t know where they are, but we never want to forget them.”
Lafayette also talked about those who are currently serving.
“I want you to keep in mind this Memorial Day that there are families here today whose members are at war and we need to remember those families and keep them in our hearts and prayers,” he said.
Along with the speeches, the school also held their annual flag ceremony, replacing the American flag that had flown over the school since the previous Memorial Day with a flag donated by the family of Jeffrey R. Rice, a Vietnam veteran who died on Dec. 24, 2008.
Students in each grade also sang and recited poems to commemorate the day, including the kindergarten (“This is My Country”), first grade (“Old Glory”), second grade (“History”), third grade (“What’s More American”), fourth grade (“America”), fifth grade (“Pledge of Allegiance Song”) and sixth grade (“In Flanders Fields”). Members of the senior high school chorus also sang the national anthem, and members of the junior band performed taps.