Teacher collects flags for school in Japan
Editor's note: Elise Henderson, who teaches second grade at a Misawa Air Base, Japan, is the daughter of Marie Huey and the niece of Dr. and Mrs. Philip Stevens, all of Tonganoxie. The following is from a story by Jennifer Svan which recently was published in Stars and Stripes.
Sollars Elementary School students can gaze up at Maine's moose, California's grizzly bear and Maryland's coat of arms while eating tater treats and gabbing with friends.
Fifty state flags were hung in the school cafeteria along with a U.S. flag, the culmination of a two-year project organized by second-grade teacher Elise Henderson to collect a flag from every state.
"It was mainly to bring a little bit of home -- a little bit of the United States -- to the people of Misawa," she said.
The flags were hung on the day before Veterans Day. Darrell Bencken, Vietnam War veteran and a member of Veterans of Foreign War Post 2981 in Oakley, Kan., gathered all 50 flags after Henderson sent the organization an e-mail about the project.
"We told them we were renaming the cafeteria 'Flag Cafeteria' in honor of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of America," Henderson said.
It took Bencken about a year to round up the flags.
"Each state sent their flag and a lot of them flew over their state capitol," Henderson said.
Bencken mailed the flags about a year ago. Henderson's second-graders last year studied each of them and wrote thank-you letters to the states, including a photo of the students with the state's flag in every note.
"The children became so enthralled with the flags," Henderson said. "When we opened a new flag, they'd cheer and clap, and they compared flags when we finished opening them. You wouldn't think you could become so attached to a flag."