Shortly after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, a group of teachers at Maple Point Middle School in the Neshaminy School District got together to discuss an idea. With Veterans Day approaching, they thought that holding a ceremony to honor America’s military would be a good way to teach their students about the vital role of the men and women who chose, and continue to choose to serve their country in the armed forces.
Every year since, the 8th grade at Maple Point participated in a ceremony that has become a school and community tradition. Over 100 veterans and active military typically attend the ceremony, held just before Veterans Day (which is a school holiday). There, they hear speeches by students, teachers, community leaders and special guests. A roll call of attending veterans is read, and students sing and perform patriotic songs. A large American flag is painted on a sloping field next to the school, and a portrait photo of the students and veterans is the finale to the ceremony.
In 2020, of course, this tradition had to change. 8th grade social studies teacher Anne Schmidt, one of the original organizers of the event, brainstormed with her colleagues on how to continue the ceremony while protecting students and veterans from the Covid-19 virus.
What they did was to turn the event inside-out, literally. On Monday, November, 10, veterans and their guests were invited to drive through the parking lot of the school, through a path lined by students and staff holding hand-made signs of appreciation and flags. The Langhorne-Middletown Fire Company sent a tower truck which held a large American flag. Each veteran was greeted and given a gift bag. Several television stations covered the parade and shared it on the evening news.
Students posed with the painted flag over two days, since only half of the students attend classes each day in the current hybrid learning schedule.
A virtual video ceremony (viewer below) was produced and shared with the community on the 11th hour of Veterans Day, Tuesday, November 11. The video included all the speeches (taped during the previous week), tributes, musical performances, the roll call, and footage of the parade from the previous day. Community speakers included U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, PA Rep. Frank Farry, former U.S. Under Secretary of the Army Patrick J. Murphy. The finale of the video included a tribute to Ms. Schmidt for her hard work organizing this amazing event for 20 years.
Anne Schmidt (center) with firefighters on a truck they brought to the parade on November 10.