Today’s My Story is written by Vicky Brooker, superintendent at Dent-Phelps R-III. Submit a My Story on any subject to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dent-Phelps R-III School District held its annual 8th grade banquet May 9. The banquet starts with a meal that is provided by PTO and ends with various awards given to graduating eighth graders. During this year’s banquet, I had the pleasure of presenting a special award to two young men. But before I did, I told the story behind the award, which I was told later brought tears to many eyes.
The story of honor, dedication and respect spans three years. The story of two students, two flags, and a time-honored tradition at Dent-Phelps.
I began by telling the parents, students and the staff present that I was in the United States Army as a military police officer, and part of my duties while on patrol was to put up and/or take down the post flags. Upon coming to work here, the task of teaching the fifth grades how to care for the school’s flags fell to me. Every year since 2004 (except one) I have taught the fifth-grade classes at the beginning of the school year.
The daily putting up and taking down of the flags at Dent-Phelps has always been done by the students, usually the fifth grade. This may sound like a simple process, but it involves a great deal. They must learn to raise and lower them properly, fasten the lanyard correctly, fold them in a military triangle, how to fly the flags correctly (not upside down – yes that has happened), how to fly at half-staff, and to do all of this while showing the proper respect that the U.S. and Missouri flags deserve. Basically, not goofing off and playing around while they are doing this.
Over the years some groups have done really well, some groups need help for part of the year and then were fine, and some groups – well… that’s a different story.
When this eighth grade class was in fifth grade, they fell into the really well category. I showed them what to do within the first couple of days of school, and they required very little assistance after that. They should all be commended for that year.
The next year’s group – to be honest – they were the different story. They struggled, and two students, Brayden Headrick and Jacob Wood, from this group were called upon to help. To make a long story short, the next thing I know is the teachers took away the flag duties from the fifth grade and gave it to the sixth, with Brayden and Jacob being the main ones who took care of the flags daily.
Their seventh-grade year was the one that had the most impact on me, and I knew then that I had to recognize these to two students in a very special way.
The second day of school when this group started seventh grade, I set up a time to instruct the fifth graders and something came up – as it always does in administration, and I missed the instruction time. As soon as the crisis was over I went to the fifth-grade teachers to reschedule a time and to my surprise, I was told that Brayden and Jacob instructed the new fifth grade class in my absence.
Brayden and Jacob took their teaching seriously, and for several months they went out with the fifth graders, watched, assisted and retaught, and when they felt that they were ready they let them do it on their own. Anytime the fifth graders had problems, they went to Brayden and Jacob for help instead of me. They would help and supervise again until they were comfortable with the fifth graders abilities. So, for pretty much the entire year these two students were involved with the fifth-grade flag duties.
I would like to say that the time these two students spent on the flag each morning and afternoon was taking away from a noble cause, like homework, instruction or reading, but it wasn’t. The time was taken away from something far more important to them – time with their friends. This was the time before school started and after school ended when they are allowed to sit and visit with their other classmates.
In all my years working with the flag detail students, I have never seen any students give the honor and respect that these two students have toward our nation’s flag, the Missouri flag and the Dent-Phelps flag tradition.
Having to replace flags periodically, I was fortunate enough that during this, their eighth-grade year, to end up with two sets of flags that these students took care of since fifth grade. In February of this year, I called them both to the office and had them fold the two U.S. and two Missouri flags for the last time, telling them that I was retiring them. I ordered double flag display cases and had their names, the school and date engraved in black and gold and attached them to it.
While I was telling this wonderful tale at the banquet, I waited to say the names of Brayden and Jacob until the very end. The boys and a few teachers knew who I was talking about, but the rest of the crowd had no idea. As far as all the parents were concerned, fifth-grade flag detail ends in fifth grade. Brayden and Jacob may have been a little embarrassed, and they were very surprised to be presented with the flags that they cared for from the time they were in fifth grade, but I wanted them to know several things. Dedication to a good deed always gets noticed. I haven’t seen the honor and respect they showed to our flags since leaving the military. I saw this demonstrated every day, and with over time they passed on that honor and respect to their younger schoolmates.
As Brayden and Jacob move on to high school, their story at our school comes to an end. The story of their honor, respect, and dedication. The story of a Dent-Phelps R-III tradition, two flags and two truly amazing young men.