OTTUMWA — Maguerite Morrow, a senior at Ottumwa High School, wasn’t surprised most people don’t know much about flag etiquette. She was the same way.
“I knew it represented the 13 colonies and the 50 states, and I knew it wasn’t supposed to touch the ground,” Morrow said. “That’s all I knew.”
Morrow is deputy commander of the Bulldog Battalion, the high school’s JROTC unit. Her time in the program taught her most of what she currently knows about the proper handling of an American flag, such as the various folds, and when and how it’s meant to be disposed of.
One day, when she went to pick her brother up from Eisenhower Elementary, she saw some students folding the flag improperly. So she contacted the school and asked if she and a few other cadets could come and teach proper flag handling.
The cadets came and worked with Eisenhower’s two fifth-grade classrooms Thursday afternoon. Each cadet took a group of five or six students and led them through the folds. Most of the students knew very little about flag etiquette and were clearly enjoying the presence of older kids.
Fifth-grader Gage Spurgeon said he knew some of the basics, such as not letting a flag touch the ground, but not the symbolism behind the folds and colors.
“I learned about the 13 folds. They all represent something,” he said. “And how it’s important to salute.”
Morrow said flag etiquette is important for this very reason. To her, respecting the flag communicates respect for what it represents.
“We’re joining the military, and we’re going to fight, and we’re going to go to war. So I feel like it’s important,” Morrow said. “There are kids out there losing their parents going out and fighting these wars. We’re a free country because of the people who fought.”
Kasey Wainwright, another JROTC cadet, said something similar.
“Each flag represents the different parts of our country,” Wainwright said. “Some parts represent the sacrifices our soldiers made. That’s important for them to understand — there are people out there fighting for our liberty. It also tells them we should be united as a country, and I think it’s important for them to learn we should work together.”
The cadets have already agreed to do the same thing at Horace Mann and Wilson later this month, but Morrow hopes more schools get involved.
“Hopefully other schools contact us to come do the same thing,” Morrow said. “A lot of cadets like dealing with kids. So we like coming and doing all this.”