Friday, March 17, 2006; C12
Flag Connects Students To U.S. Troops in Iraq

The patrols raised the flag at White Oaks Elementary School yesterday just as they do every morning. The flag blew crisply in the chill wind of the late-winter morning and then fluttered against the clear blue sky.

What was unusual about yesterday's ceremony was the flag that was raised. It had last flown, on Christmas Eve, over Camp Taqaddum, Iraq. That day members of the 2nd Marine Logistics Group flew the flag in honor of the 800 students at the Burke school who had written letters to the troops.

The Marines then sent the flag, along with a certificate and notes of thanks, to the students. "Thanks for the great stuff and thoughts," wrote Maj. W.T. Hennessy. "Thank you for all your support," wrote Sgt. Leslie Johnson of Texas.

The students at White Oaks were stunned that men and women in the armed services in Iraq would take the time to raise a flag in their honor.

So yesterday's ceremony was important to patrol Helen Smith, 11. "It was like you were putting up something that meant a lot to you and your country," Helen said. "It just felt really special."

From left, Carolyn Jouben, Hanan El Shazli, Helen Smith, Emaleigh Phelps and DeAnni Smalls get ready to raise a flag sent from Iraq. (By Nancy Maxwell -- White Oaks Elementary)