"Old Glory" still glorious

  • Published
  • By Paige Hughes
  • Air Force Weather Agency Public Affairs
The National flag flying over Wilson Alternative Middle School, Omaha, Neb. barely caught the breeze as it hung lifeless over the school with frayed edges and stripes of faded red and greying white.
A group of Air Force Weather Agency airmen, and mentors for the students, noticed the worn and tattered flag on a routine visit.

"We were at the school one day and looked up and said 'that flag is pretty bad'. We asked the school if we could do something about it," said Staff Sgt. Damon S. Drake, a communications airman at AFWA.

Sgt. Drake and the other mentors collected donations from AFWA members to purchase a new flag. They agreed the flag had to be retired in accordance with United States Flag rules and regulations. They enlisted the aid of the AFWA color guard to perform an official flag retirement ceremony at the school.

A crowd of students, teachers and airmen gathered around the flagpole Wednesday, March 12, the day of the ceremony. Sgt. Drake read the details of the flag retirement, as the color guard slowly lowered the old "Old Glory." As custom dictates, the new flag, a vivid red, white and blue, was hoisted up briskly.

"We were excited about it, no one here has witnessed a flag retirement ceremony," said Ms. Jodi Pesek, building administrator for the school.

"I think the new flag will be respected because they gave it to us, they're showing respect to us," said Manuel "Manny" Mohr, 14. Sgt. Drake has mentored Manny since January, when he was transferred to the school.

The generoisity of Sgt. Drake and the four other AFWA members goes beyond just provinding a new flag. They donate their time to the students, each spending an hour or more a week at the school through the "Flying High with the Wilson Doves" mentoring program. The program began in 2000 by an Omaha Public School administrator.

"It's a good feeling you get when you see the kids. They are excited to see you and you're not in a disciplinary role, you're a friend, a mentor to them," said Sgt. Drake.

According to Ms. Pesek, the flag ceremony was a way to reinforce patriotism at the school. "Many of our student's mentors have been called away for service, they understand the people who care about them and spend time with them, are now out there fighting for them, " said Ms. Pesek.

As for Manny, he's full of patriotism and ready to enlist. "I feel like being in the military, maybe the Army. I feel pride and faith," said Manny.