The annual American Legion and Auxiliary picnic was held Wednesday evening at Oneota Park in Spencer. American Legion members of the Glen Pedersen Post No. 1 and Auxiliary members of Glen Pedersen Unit No. 1 paid tribute to their fallen compatriots during ensuing ceremonies.
A memorial service for Auxiliary members Colleen Smith and Sylvia Holmberg-Van Norman, who departed in 2009, was held next.
Legionnaires then held a Post Everlasting ceremony to take the names of their deceased comrades from the roster of the living over the last year and transfer them into the post of the everlasting. Among those listed in the rite of passage ceremony were World War II veterans O.R. Andrews, Floyd Breidinger, Ray Brown, Ben Davis, Orton Hanson, William Jackson, Stanley Lanning, Murray Underwood and Donald Veitch and Korean War veteran Lloyd Triggs.
Following the Post Everlasting ceremony, a rifle salute was performed by post members. Old, weathered flags were retired by Boy Scouts from Troop 123, and Taps was played by Legion member John "Jack" Ryan.
Spencer fifth grade students received firsthand lessons on patriotism this year. They responded in kind by writing heartfelt essays on what the flag means to them.
Bob Faulkender, Ken Heimgartner, Vincent and Rose Treiweiler, Jack St. Peters and Tracey Larsen were the local veterans who delivered the message of patriotism as they visited each of the five elementary buildings in Spencer, showed the "For Which It Stands" video, did a flag folding ceremony, conducted a question-and-answer session with students and distributed booklets on flag etiquette.
Of the approximately 150 essays turned in, eight students were selected as winners. Several of the winning essayists read their reports during the annual American Legion and Auxiliary picnic held Wednesday evening at Oneota Park in Spencer. They were each awarded a $50 savings bond and an American Legion certificate of participation.
"What the flag means to me is honesty, loyalty and respect," Caleb Millsap, a Lincoln Elementary fifth grade student, wrote in his winning submission.
Makenzie Folsom of Fairview Elementary penned, "When I look at the flag, I feel free. I feel free because that is what it represents. Also when I look at the flag, I think about all the people who have fought in the wars for our freedom. Both in the past and currently."
According to Cameron Chaffin, a Lincoln Elementary fifth grade student, the flag is "love, peace and freedom."
"The stars, to me, stand for our 50 free American states, which our people that we love live in. The star box stands for our rights of freedom that we get in which no one can intrude, that which include voting for, once again, our president or our government and all of our rights.
"The red stripes stand for the blood our country has shed for my freedom, your freedom and our country's freedom and for the blood our country has, in this time, shed for our friends in Iraq. The white stripes stand, to me, for the love we share with our fellow people and the different countries we share love with, like with the people in Haiti, Chile and for the peace within our rights to our homes to be with our friends, family and loved ones.
"The triangular shape the flag is made into at a funeral stands for respect shown to the veteran who gave his life for our country. To me, the flag is very important and means so much. I also say the flag stands for us among the different countries to show that we are unique in many ways like all people are.
"I think the flag also stands for our importance in the world like I think any country that has a flag lets it stand for their importance. With all the flags in the world, I think all flags stand for creativity of humanity. The most important thing about the flag is respect, for we should show it respect as it stands for respect to us. To me, the flag is everything."
To Iowa Great Lakes Lutheran School fifth grade student Erick Phillips, the flag stands for "freedom, courage, honor and pride."
Cameron Cantrall, of Lincoln Elementary, read, "The flag means the fight for our freedoms and to keep the freedom we enjoy. From the battle of Bunker Hill to Gettysburg, the flag saw all that. The flag proudly flew over the western front as Americans fought and died in the trenches of World War I. As the soldiers raised her over Iwo Jima, it saw the end of World War II's island-hopping campaign. The flag flew in the jungles of Vietnam as Americans fought against the communist North Vietnam. It hung on tanks in Operation Desert Storm, and now it's hanging over towns and forts as men and women fight and die to stop terrorism. It reminds me of the men and women who fought gallantly and still are for this freedom. It shows us what we've fought hard to protect."
Katie Simpson, of Johnson School, wrote, "The flag is very important to me. It stands for freedom, honor, loyalty and death. It is special to my family because my grandpa is a veteran from the military and my uncle is fighting in a remote part of Afghanistan. My uncle is one of my heroes. He is one of the true Americans because he does what some people think is impossible: He fights for the safety of others and the preservation of countries."
For local parochial fifth grade student Chloe Mohr, the flag represents independence and freedom.
"This allows me to go to school at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Spencer," she wrote in her essay. "Without the flag, I would not be able to go to school wherever I wanted. I might not even be allowed to go to school if it wasn't for the flag. By choosing to go to my school, I get a religious education along with my other classes. If I lived in another country, I might not."
And, according to Lincoln Elementary student Megan Hinrichsen, the flag means freedom.