Menomonee Falls, Wis., April 14, 2015 – When the first Stars and Stripes Honor Flight of the year returns to Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport on Saturday, April 18th, the veterans will be welcomed by the 5th grade students and their families from St. Mary Parish School in Menomonee Falls. It is just one small token of appreciation these 5th graders felt compelled to offer to the veterans.
What began as a school assignment about family genealogy sparked classroom discussion about their own family members who were US veterans and the sacrifice that goes along with earning such a title. “They wanted to learn more and to give something back to those who have given so much,” said Jennifer Stroh, one of the 5th grade teachers at St. Mary Parish School.
“There are many brave veterans that sacrificed their lives for us, said St. Mary Parish School 5th grader, Emma Stueland. Mike Kelley, another 5th grade student added, “Their sacrifice was great. “We will never be able to match that sacrifice, but it’s our duty to try.” Lilly Eggers had a special enthusiasm to want to help them, “My dad is a veteran so this felt more personal and meaningful.”
This experience was not the typical history lesson taken from a text book or a scripted curriculum. The students watched the movie Honor Flight, participated in Jonathan Lucroy’s 5 Words on Freedom, and ultimately decided to raise funds to donate to Stars and Stripes Honor Flight, a nonprofit organization that provides veterans flights to Washington D.C. to see the memorials that honor them.
“Service projects are an integral part of St. Mary Parish School, however this one was special because the students chose a service that was personally meaningful for them,” said Linda Joyner, St. Mary Parish School Principal. For the last five years, the school has posed a challenge to its students – a $50 challenge. Each classroom is provided $50 and are asked to find a way to make the value grow and help others. “Armed with a tracking sheet and their entrepreneurial skills, the 5th graders have been negotiating services with the goal to raise $1,000. That’s enough to sponsor two veterans to go to Washington D.C.” added Stroh.
“Raising money enables the students to make that connection with relatives several generations removed and shows that they understand the value of giving back.” said TJ Kelm, 5th grade teacher at St. Mary Parish School. “They have learned not only about the sacrifice these men and women have made but understand the gratitude we all should have towards our veterans for their service.”
“It feels amazing to help out with this wonderful project. Just knowing that we are helping out a veteran that otherwise wouldn’t get this experience is breathtaking,” said Abbie Nelson, 5th grade student at St. Mary Parish School. “I hope the veterans have a safe trip and see the monument with happiness,” said St. Mary 5th grader, Wil Franz.
The St. Mary Parish School 5th graders, their teachers and families are proud to be at the Honor Flight Homecoming at General Mitchell International Airport and give a welcoming cheer to the veterans when they make their return to Milwaukee on Saturday, April 18th. The culmination of their experiences will take place on April 24th, when a representative from Stars and Stripes Honor Flight will come to the classroom and receive the final donation amount raised by the St. Mary Parish School 5th graders.
“I am very excited and blessed to be a part of this project. It is an honor that we get to thank the veterans in the right way. I hope that we can send all the veterans in Wisconsin to their memorial,” said Henry Pomroy, a 5th grader at the school. Kaitlyn Holub, St. Mary 5th grader added, “This was an incredible experience and it means a lot to me that these special people are getting their well-deserved thank you.”
For more information about the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight please go to www.starsandstripeshonorflight.org