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    A Special American Flag Unfurls Over Sayville Middle School
    October 10, 2015 8:17 am  
    A Special American Flag Unfurls Over Sayville Middle School

    by Linda Mittiga, Sayville Schools Public Relations

    Last May, the topic of Memorial Day took on new meaning for the Lincoln Avenue Fifth-grade students in Mrs. Whitehurst’s class.

    During their discussion, the students realized they could not thank the men in person who had served and were honored on Memorial Day, “but we could do something for current soldiers,” Mrs. Whitehurst explained. Her students decided they wanted to be proactive in showing their timely appreciation.

    Since Mrs. Whitehurst knew a particular soldier, a friend , who was serving in a unit of the Air Force Rescue Squadron stationed at Camp Lemonier Djibouti, Africa, the class pooled their collective talents and wrote letters.

    Weeks later, the Air Force’s 102nd Rescue Squadron replied. “I want to thank each one of you for the letters you sent us,” wrote USAF Captain Ian M. D’Amico, Pilot, 81 ERQQS. “During this hard time away from our families, you all put a smile on our faces and made us laugh. The letters meant more to us than you could know! Your support gives us the encouragement to continue fighting for the amazing country we live in!”

    Captain D’Amico offered some background about his unit. “We fly the ‘Mighty’ HC-130 Hercules aircraft. Our job is to refuel helicopters in the air, airdrop Para-rescue men from our airplane, search for people in distress, and airdrop supplies to troops on the ground.” He also told the students more about Africa, “the world’s second-largest continent.” While the large land mass is surrounded by water (the Mediterranean Sea, the Suez Canal , the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the Atlantic Ocean), “it is very HOT here. The average temperature here in East Africa this time of year is around 105F.”

    Although the students were fascinated to learn about the experiences of the unit in Africa, their excitement increased upon learning that they would also be receiving a special American flag.

    “To show our appreciation for everything you have done for us,” Captain D’Amico continued in his letter, “we are presenting you with a flag that we flew in your honor. Thank you again for your continued support. People like yourselves are the reason we are fighting so hard for this country. Enjoy your last few weeks of school and summer vacation. Be good to Mrs. Whitehurst; you guys are lucky to have had her as your teacher! We will keep your encouraging thoughts and words with us as we finish out our deployment. Thank you and God bless America!”

    When the flag arrived, it seemed only right that it followed these Lincoln Avenue Fifth-graders who “moved up” in June into the Middle School.

    Recently, the entire Sixth-grade class, with Middle School Principal Tom Murray, Assistant Principal Brian Decker, and special guest Mrs. Katherine Whitehurst, participated in a commemorative ceremony. Sixth-grader Ryan Van Boxel gave a wonderful trumpet performance of America the Beautiful, and after the special  flag was respectfully hoisted high, the students planted their hand-held flags at the foot of the flagpole.

    The American flag that had once flown over the Horn of Africa now unfurls over the front lawn at Sayville Middle School as a testament to those Lincoln Avenue students who boosted the Squadron’s morale with their letters.

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    Story by Linda Mittiga

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