Members of the U.S. Air Force Detachment 361st Training Squadron were special guests and participants of the Patriot Program held at the Meadowvale Elementary School in Havre de Grace May 20.

The detachment first sergeant Master Sgt. Dennis Westbrooks, was the guest military speaker and the detachment color guard posted and retired the colors.

The program was held outside and guests were seated on a flatbed surrounded by the entire student body, faculty, staff members and parents.

Guests included Havre de Grace Mayor Wayne H. Dougherty, Maryland delegates Dan Riley and Mary Dulany-James; Mary Ann Lisanti of the Harford County Council; William T. Martin of the Havre de Grace City Council and Roxanne Lynch, representing Harford County Executive David Craig.

Principal Blaine Hawley opened the program asking for silence as the USAF Detachment color guard moved through the crowd of children to post the colors.

Hawley told the children that the program would focus on what it means to be patriotic.

"We all have something in common and that is that we are part of the United States," she said. "And the flag is a symbol just like our school mascot - it reminds us of what it means to be an American."

Hawley said the school's Patriot Program began four years ago and asked the children to remember what they saw and heard after they leave the school.
Westbrooks commented that he counted 12 flags hanging from buildings and homes while driving to the school that morning.

"I really feel good being a part of this community," he said.

He told the children that one thing they can do to show their patriotism is to thank a service member for their service.

"Ask your mom or dad to put a 'We Support Out Troops' sticker on the car. That means a lot to us in uniform," he said.

He took questions from the children about the military.

One child asked what the Army does to save the country.

Westbrooks told them about Army training with weapons and technology all aimed at keeping the country safe.

"This is my first time serving on an Army installation, and I'm really impressed with what they do," Westbrooks answered. "But in the Air Force we have some cool stuff too so we all work together."
Dougherty told the children that patriots like Westbrooks, "protect our right to be free."

He commended them for their efforts in the Patriot Program and encouraged them to learn more.

"The citizens of Havre de Grace commend you in your desire to increase your standing as patriots," he said.

After remarks by other panel members, Hawley displayed a Maryland proclamation signed by the governor and the lieutenant governor as well as certificates from Maryland Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin.

"There are many, many people out there who are thinking about all of you," she said.

At the program's end, a parade of children and adults followed the Airmen to the back of the school where they led military-styled warm-up exercises.

Westbrooks said the detachment visits the school regularly as part of the Partnership In Education agreement.

"We've done weeding and other beautification projects as well as tutoring," he said.

He was accompanied by Staff Sgt. Kristopher Eddy, an instructor in aircraft metals technology, and four students - Airmen Joshua Bushy, Sean Misner, Steven Hershberger and Kenneth Clause.

At the conclusion, Hawley thanked the Airmen, parents and faculty for guiding the children through the program.

"You've been important components of the Patriot Program, and we could not have had such an achievement without your help," she said.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16