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Appreciation of veterans reaches new highs

November 10, 2001

Lolita Harper

COSTA MESA -- Differing in age by more than 70 years in some cases,

students at St. John the Baptist Catholic School and area veterans came

together Friday to recognize the cost of defending freedom.

More than 50 veterans joined 600 children in the sanctuary of St. John

the Baptist for an hourlong assembly thanking men and women in service

who defended -- and continue to defend -- the rights of all citizens.

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"It is the soldier who serves the flag and whose coffin lays under the

flag that allows the protester to burn the flag," Vice Principal Mary

McMenamin said.

The message was even more poignant as U.S. troops are fighting

overseas. More than 100 parents and community members attended the

service, sitting in pews decorated by hand-colored flags and drawings of

the Statue of Liberty.

Two American flags were displayed overhead. One on each side of a

banner that read, "God Bless America." The patriotic display perfectly

framed the permanent fixture of Jesus Christ nailed to the cross --

epitomizing a mixture of church and state.

Tawny Safieddine, an eighth-grader, said the recent terrorist attacks

made her look at Veterans Day in a new light.

"It was so scary when it happened," Tawny said. "But we have to think

about how we can thank those who fought before and those who are going to

have to fight now."

Although it was the second year the school has hosted a Veterans Day

assembly, McMenamin reserved a larger room and received twice as many

volunteers this year, she said. The East Coast attacks have caused a

surge in patriotism and gave a new meaning to the sometimes overlooked

holiday, she said.

"Vets don't ask for thanks, and they seldom receive it," speaker and

ex-serviceman Jim Buote said.

He reminded people of the importance of national defense and the

dangers of letting down our guard. Former World War II veteran George

Newland echoed Buote's sentiments, saying he is thankful awareness is

being raised in the younger generations. It's an awareness that was

greatly lacking in the past, he said.

It "brings to their attention how important it is to defend the United

States," Newland said.

Allison Greenwood, a 13-year-old student, said she was already aware

because of her grandfather.

"He fought for his family because he loved everybody very much," she

said, "and that's why we celebrate."

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