Local school gets surprise: flag that flew in Afghanistan
The red, white and blue of a special American flag has brought smiles and tears to the faces of students and faculty at Centennial Middle School since Wednesday when it arrived at the Crane district campus.
The flag was presented to Vicky Farland's eighth-grade science students by Yuma's Marine Attack Squadron-513 - known around the world as the Flying Nightmares.
The flag seems to have raised the awareness of the students, but also has raised questions about war protesters, terrorism and the current war in Iraq.
This squadron is one of many from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma deployed around the world either on training missions, battling Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and routing out the terrorist group al-Qaida and Taliban supporters in Afghanistan.
Farland's class, and others at the school, began their letter writing and care package campaign to Marines at the beginning of the current school year and all of them admit that they expected nothing in return.
Then the flag arrived Wednesday.
With the flag, Harrier pilot Capt. Mike D. Trapp also sent a certificate verifying that it had flown over Bagram airbase in Afghanistan.
Farland said she couldn't even read the certificate without tears welling up in her eyes. "This is such a great surprise for all of our students," Farland said Friday. "All we were trying to do was show our support for all of our military men and women.'
The certificate said in part, "Let it be known that this flag represents the American resolve following the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon." The image on the certificate showed the famous scene of the American flag being raised on Iwo Jima during World War II.
Also included was a handwritten note from 1st Lt. Ryan Flanagan thanking the students for their support on behalf of the Marines and the Flying Nightmares of VMA-513.
According to MCAS, the Flying Nightmares are still stationed in Afghanistan.
The science class, which is part of the academic Timberwolf team at Centennial students, along with many other schools in Yuma, have been corresponding with Marines, sailors, airmen and soldiers from all parts of America all year and also sending care packages to commanding officers to distribute among the troops.
Now the class is working on Easter cards and packages which will be filled with the little marshmallow candy chicks called Peeps. "We are going to call it 'From our Peeps to your Peeps' when we send them to the servicemen," Farland said.
Farland said her classes have also sent cards and care packages on all of the major holidays. "But, we never expected to get anything back like the flag," she said.
Even though the flag came from Afghanistan, the conversation in the classroom on Friday centered around all the Marines who are serving, regardless of where they are stationed and the events surrounding the war at home.
Cally Tanaka, 13, said of the letter-writing campaign, "We were just trying to do our part to support them. It was the least we could do to let them know that the folks that are protesting them are in the minority.
"I guess they have the right to do it, but I don't even think most of the protesters really know what they are protesting against.'
Melinda Christensen, 14, said the class was not sending cards and packages for any other reason than to support the troops. "That's why it was so cool when we got the flag and the certificate. Now we know that they really appreciate what we are doing."
Lety Moedano, 14, says all the news has her a little worried for her own safety. "My dad keeps telling me not to watch so much television, but it's like I have to do it so I can tell people about all of this later in life."
The letter and card-writing campaign has also heightened many students' awareness of Saddam Hussein and his regime in Iraq.
Max Mendoza, 13, said he would like to ask him a question if he ever had the chance to meet him. "I would like to ask him why he wants to kill so many people. He is causing so many of his own people to be killed and I just don't understand that."
'I know I would go over there and help them (the soldiers) in Iraq today if I could," Tanaka said.
Randy Reese can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6855.