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Emily Short, 4, Burlingame, speaks with SFC Jeff Troth, 1st Infantry Division, at Friday’s presentation. Emily wore a shirt with a photo of her sister, Brittany Moore, and button with photo of her brother, Cody Moore, both of whom currently serve in the armed forces.

Gabe Faimon | Reporter

On Veterans Day, seven Burlingame Elementary School classes each received a United States flag, which had been flown on a Dec. 28, 2010, helicopter combat mission in Iraq.

During presentation of each flag and accompanying certificate on Veterans Day, Army Major Joshua Berryhill said, “In my unit, we have a tradition of flying American flags on combat missions and then sending them back home as tokens of appreciation for people who send support through care packages, supplies and letters of thanks. That is why I am here today. While my unit was deployed in Iraq last year, the students of Burlingame Elementary took time to write us letters.”

In observance of Veterans Day 2010, elementary school students wrote letters of thanks to soldiers on duty in Iraq. Teachers and classes that participated in the letter-writing effort included: Trish Paree, kindergarten; Jill Laws, kindergarten; Chelsi Gardner, first grade; Kandi Lee, second grade; Kim Peterson, second grade; Amy Heckman, third grade; and, Amy Westeman, fourth grade.

Adam Hunt, then future son-in-law of Paree, served as the link between the students, their letters and the flags. Hunt, a helicopter pilot, was deployed with Alpha Company Devils, 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, of the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, based at Fort Riley. Hunt is now a medevac pilot in Farmington, Mo.

Berryhill, a former Topeka resident, is operations officer of the 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion. He served tours of duty in Iraq in 2003, 2005 and 2010.

Student representatives who were selected to receive the flags and certificates for their classmates included Tyler Baker, Alexandra Crook, Hunter Dorsey,

Evan Young, Caitlynn Burns, Kelsie Quaney and Dalton Sporing.
Except for the presentation by Berryhill and Burlingame Elementary Principal Tamara Buche serving as master of ceremonies, students performed the ceremony, which opened with Burlingame Cub Scout Pack III, under leadership of Stacie Thomas, forming the color guard. Fourth-grade student Zachary Fitzgerald led the Pledge of Allegiance. My Country ‘Tis of Thee was sung by the kindergarten to fourth-grade choir, directed by Skyler Brussee. The Treble Cats, also directed by Brussee, sang God Bless America. A medley of service songs of the armed forces was performed by the Burlingame High School band, directed by Mark Hecht. Under direction of Linda White, the BHS show choir sang My Country ‘Tis of Thee. To honor soldiers who had fallen while serving their country, trumpeter Chris Mohn presented Silver Taps. Closing the ceremony, the colors were retired by the color guard.

A patriotic display of American flags along the entrance was presented by members of American Legion Riders Post 421.

Before presenting the flags and certificates to class representatives, Berryhill said, “We have many, many examples of courage, service and sacrifice to reflect on today. We give thanks to live in a country where citizens from every generation have willingly and courageously raised their hands to stand the watch. Let’s use the opportunity now, and on Veterans Day in years to come, to celebrate service to our nation, to demonstrate the appreciation we have for our military and to inspire future generations to dedicate themselves in the name of the many who have served before them.”

When the flags arrived at the school in March, Buche and teachers decided to keep them a secret. Buche began making plans to feature presentation of the flags and certificates during a ceremony on Veterans Day. As the day drew nearer, Brussee and Hecht assisted with final arrangements.

In addition to students, the bleachers were filled with members of the Burlingame community. Many veterans stood while their respective service songs were played by the BHS band.