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Veterans Present Flag Program To Students
Three "old soldiers" made Veterans Day special for local schoolchildren by appearing at both an Escalon and then a Riverbank elementary school on the eve of the national holiday.

All veterans who served during the Vietnam War era, they belong to the Escalon American Legion Gustafson-Thompson Post 263. Tom Converse explained he served in the Army for seven years, Mark Sward put in two years service also in the Army and Don Forest spent 10 years in the Navy. All served additional time in the reserves after ending active service.

After presenting their program to third graders at Dent Elementary School in Escalon, the three appeared later that Thursday morning, Nov. 10, before teacher Gail Forest's class at California Avenue School in Riverbank.

"Once a veteran you always have a place in your heart for the flag," said Sward. " We are here today to pass some of our pride in the United States of America along to you so you can pass the pride along to others."

Standing before three flags, the Stars and Stripes, the Missing in Action and Prisoner of War flag and their American Legion Post colors, they recited the preamble to the Legion's Constitution, read the well-known poem by Thomas Wicks called "I Am Your Flag," led the Pledge of Allegiance and demonstrated the proper ritual for folding the U.S. Flag.

"I Am Your Flag" by Thomas E. Wicks Sr. begins "I was born June 14, 1777, I am more than just cloth shaped into a design. I am the refuge of the world's oppressed people. I am the silent sentinel of freedom. I am the emblem of the greatest sovereign nation on earth."

"My red stripes symbolize the blood spilled in defense of this glorious nation," it adds. "My white stripes signify the burning tears shed by Americans who lost their sons. My blue field is indicative of God's heaven, under which I fly. My stars, clustered together, unify 50 states as one for God and Country."

The reciting of the poem by veterans helped them in explaining the symbolism of the flag's colors.

The three also brought with them a couple of GI's helmets complete with the light fiberglass lining that is fitted to the head and the heavy steel helmet itself that can not only deflect bullets and heavy blows but serve in emergency as a container for water or food.