OCEAN PINES ---- While patriotic spirit was strong on Memorial Day, sacrifices made by members of the military are far from the minds of most people on an average day. Members of the Worcester County Veterans Memorial Foundation want to change that.
"We try to get the conversation going at home about the military," said MarieGilmore, president of the foundation. "There are too few young people who know anything about the military and the sacrifices made for this country."
Since 2006, members of the Worcester County Veterans Memorial Foundation have invited local fifth-graders to the memorial in Ocean Pines to familiarize them with it and the history it represents. Ed Little, the member of the foundation who heads the educational aspect of the veterans memorial, met with school system officials to determine how a field trip to the site would best fit in with the local curriculum. Fifth-graders were selected as the target audience. Although he started with just public school students in WorcesterCounty, Little now hosts visits from WorcesterPreparatory School and Most Blessed Sacrament as well.
The foundation even pays for most of the school buses that transport the students to the site. When its leaders heard that some schools were not able to afford the trip, the foundation picked up the tab.
"The foundation stepped up and said this is too important to let go," Gilmore said.
Tentative plans for the following field trips this spring include:
1. Wednesday May 15 (10:00 to Noon) Snow Hill Middle School-two one hour field trips for a total of 75 students.
Worcester Preparatory School will be scheduled in the fall.
Plans to conduct school visits in preparation for the events at the Memorial. Visits are as follows:
During their visit to the memorial, children stop at three stations around the flag poles. One station involves a guide showing them the highlights of the memorial, such as the flag poles representing each branch of the military and the bricks dedicated to local veterans. They are shown the star-shaped gardens of flowers honoring the Gold Star Mothers whose children have died serving their country.
They walk among the 1,500 bricks and pavers dedicated to soldiers from as far back as the 1800s.
Another station provides them with a lesson on flag etiquette while a third has Stephen Decatur High School ROTC members show them how to fold a flag. Little said the students love getting to interact with the high schoolers in uniform.
"It's a generational link that we can provide," Little said, adding that most of the foundation members were retirees.
Little and Gilmore said the students seemed to enjoy the experience and often came back to ceremonies held at the site for Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
"The children seem to get an awful lot out of it," Gilmore said.
Volunteers also enjoy the program.
"I get more out of it than I put into it," Little said.
The program was recently honored with the Governor's Award for Volunteerism.