Veterans tell flag history

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 6, 2005

The children of First Baptist Church Daycare gained a valuable lesson in American history and patriotism Tuesday morning at the Suffolk District Court House thanks to a pair of military veterans.

Leonard A. Fredette, a 13-year veteran of the Marine Corps during both World War II in the Pacific and the Korean War, and Leroy T. Coleman, who served in the Navy during World War II, and in the Coast Guard during Korea, gave a 45-minute long presentation about the history, meaning, and sentiment of the American flag.

As members of The National Sojourners, the two men are part of the Masonic fraternity of veterans that promote awareness and knowledge of American history and patriotism.

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On Tuseday, about 25 children from the daycare program saw Fredette, 81, and Coleman, 79, and their program about the American flag.

Fredette spoke about the history and origins of &uot;Old Glory,&uot; dating back to June 14th, 1777, the date on which the Continental Congress adopted the basic stars and stripes pattern for the young nation’s flag.

228 years later, June 14th is now recognized as Flag Day.

Those stars and stripes flew on in battle for the first time at Brandywine, Penn. over George Washington’s Army on September 11, 1777.

&uot;The stars are symbolic of the heavens, which men have always strived for,&uot; Fredette said, &uot;…and the stripes are symbolic of the rays of the sun.&uot;

Fredette gave the order of stripes that stand for each state the date on which they ratified the Constitution, starting at the bottom with Delaware.

Getting to the 10th stripe, a white stripe, Fredette said, &uot;this was a cautious colony that waited for assurance that the Bill of Rights was guaranteed to be ratified before agreeing to enter the union.&uot;

That colony was Virginia.

Coleman than stepped to the podium and became the American flag personified.

Speaking in first person, Coleman retraced the history of the flag from the Revolution through the present day.

&uot;I came on shore at the beaches of Normandy,&uot; Coleman said. &uot;I flew over a liberated Paris, and then on to Berlin.

I flew over more islands in the Pacific than can be counted.

&uot;I am most commonly known by a name an old sea captain gave me,&uot; said Coleman, &uot;that’s Old Glory.&uot;

The children then participated, asking many questions, including, &uot;What were you thinking about when going off to war?&uot;

&uot;Like most 17-year-olds, I had a girlfriend, and I was looking forward to coming back and getting married.

&uot;But while I was away, well, I was away for too long,&uot; Fredette said, laughing, &uot;and she became engaged to someone else.

The good part of the story is that this September, for the first time in 61 years, I’ll get to see her.&uot;

Jessica Burkett and Jessica Gunnell were two of the group who were very attentive for the speakers.

At the end of the presentation, Burkett said, &uot;I’d been here (the courthouse) before, but this is the first time I’d been here for this.

I wasn’t here last year.&uot;

About their teachers for the day, Gunnell said, &uot;I thought it was neat that (during World War II) you could get into the war at just the age of 17.&uot;

In addition to the flag presentation, the children also took a tour of the courthouse and a courtroom, learning about what goes on a courtroom and what each part of all the rooms is used for.