The students and faculty of Silver Lake Elementary School stood outside in below freezing temperatures and gusting winds to welcome the Wreaths Across America convoy on Thursday, Dec. 15.
The convoy arrived shortly after 9 a.m. to a gathering of first through fifth graders, lining the bus circle and Catherine Street, enthusiastically cheering and waving American flags donated to them by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the Middletown High School Junior ROTC.
Once the complete convoy had arrived, the members of Wreaths Across America filed inside the school’s auditorium, with the students and faculty not far behind. There they proceeded with a stirring ceremony that included speakers from the military families of Silver Lake Elementary, along with members of Wreaths Across America and the Gold Star Mothers Club.
The ceremony began with the Middletown High School Junior ROTC presenting the colors and the Silver Lake Elementary choir singing “The Star Spangled Banner,” and ending with the presentation of wreaths to the Silver Lake Elementary military families.
“We are honored that Wreaths Across America stopped here, at our school,” said Silver Lake Elementary Principal Cyndi Clay. “We learned a lot during the process of planning this ceremony.”
Clay explained that the request to host Wreaths Across America originally came from Frank Bailey of the Middletown Volunteer Fire Company, and she enthusiastically accepted. Since that time, the staff and students spent their days learning about Wreaths Across America, their traditions, their values, and what they represent.
“I think the importance of learning this at the elementary level is important,” Clay explained. “It brings us back to the fact that we are all Americans, and that we have freedom and liberties that make this country great, and the reason we have that is because of our military.”
In the final 10 days leading up to the convoy’s arrival, the school focused on learning about the 10 bouquets that make up a veteran’s wreath, learning about the meaning of one bouquet each day.
“Each morning, during the morning announcements, we would provide a fact about each bouquet,” Clay said. “Then, in every class, students were making wreaths as a team, so we ended up with about 30 wreaths.
“Students chose what materials to use for each wreath, adding one more bouquet each day.”
The wreaths that were made were later donated to the Resiliency Center for veterans on Broad Street, so that they may enjoy the children’s creations over the holidays.
“I think that because we now know more as students and staff, we better know the importance of our military,” Clay continued. “They are the reason we have our freedom and liberties. There is just a big appreciation that has grown throughout our school.
“After going through the elections, which contained a lot of strong feelings, with truths and untruths, the bottom line that this presented is that we are all still ultimately Americans, and that is what we wanted to embrace.”