(Jan. 8, 2007) -- Two Parris Island Marines visited three fifth grade classes at Joseph S. Shanklin Sr. Elementary School, Beaufort, S.C., on January 8 to teach them the history and customs of our nation's flag. Warrant Officer Duane Ledford, platoon commander, Starlight Range, Weapons and Field Training Battalion, asked two of his Marines, Sgt. Michael Ray, line staff, Starlight Range, and Sgt. Rusty Jones, primary marksman instructor, Marksmanship Training Unit, to visit the school in order to provide the students with an extra-curricular activity, which would instill in them a sense of pride and responsibility.
"I chose those Marines because of their professionalism," said Ledford, who is also a member of the school board. "They were [well] suited to represent the Corps in a public environment."
The fifth grade classes of Shanklin take turns raising the flag each day and learned with the help of Jones and Ray that it was not only a daily task, but also a national duty and honor.
"It was raining the day we went to visit the school, so we couldn't actually raise the flag with them," said Ray, "but we were still able to teach them a lot of things like how to fold the flag, the history of the stars and stripes and customs and courtesies associated with the flag."
The students were excited to not only learn about their nations flag, but to be taught first hand by the men who defend it.
"You could tell they were really into it and exited by the way their eyes lit up," continued Ray. "Some of them even saluted us as we entered the room."
Though the two Marines spend their workdays on the rifle range training Marine recruits, Ray and Jones were able to make an easy transition into teaching the classroom of children.
"Teaching is what we do, so it came natural to us," said Jones, a father of two children and expecting another. "We had a good time too. It was something new for us, and when you see that look in their eyes it really makes you want to stay involved."
The Marines of Starlight Range were able to leave the classroom knowing they had taught the fifth graders the history of their flag and had given something back to the community.
"When I pick my kid up from school, I'm sometimes still in uniform, and other children will ask for my autograph just because I'm a Marine," said Ledford. "I just wanted to do something for them and the community, which would give them good values and something to be proud of."