South Orangetown Central School District

On May 17, Denise Murphy’s fourth-grade class led Cottage Lane Elementary School’s patriotism-themed assembly and honored six Gold Star families presented by the Vetiquette program. “We’re honored that you are here with us so that we can keep the memories of your sons alive,” Principal Karen Ramirez told the families of Chris Hrbek, Lou Allen, Steve Vahaviolos, Manny Lopez, Michael Murphy and Robert Scott Schettig.

The CLE event was part of an ongoing, annual collaboration with South Orangetown Middle School and Vetiquette, which teaches children about the sacrifices of veterans through projects and assemblies during which Gold Star families tell their stories. Each year, the names of selected fallen veterans from WWII to today are shared with SOMS seventh-grade social studies teacher Sarah Kukla. Her students research and draft biographies for each veteran. Once their work is edited and fact-checked by Vetiquette volunteers, the student-written biographies are sent to CLE.

At CLE, Vetiquette distributes one biography per class with materials to make a tribute quilt. Each class determines how to design the quilt to honor the life of “their” veteran. The quilts will be gifted, with a letter explaining the work of all the students involved, to the respective Gold Star families of the 29 service members honored this year. “We hope these quilts bring comfort to the families, knowing that we are truly grateful and will not forget their sacrifice,” said Gifted & Talented Teacher Kerri McBride, who oversaw the project at CLE.

CLE assembly speakers included Gold Star fathers Bob Allen (Army 1st Lt. Lou Allen) and Jaymee Hodges (USMC Sgt. Chris Hrbek), and Judge Victor Alfieri (cousin of Army CWO Robert Scott Schettig). Mr. Hodges spoke during the assembly about his son who was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal and named the second honorary member of the New York City Fire Department. “It brings us peace and happiness that you want to learn about our loved ones who we have lost,” he said. “Memorial Day is a somber day for the families of the fallen. At some point in your day, stop and remember that the freedoms you enjoy are because of the men and women who have served our country.”

Gold Star families stand with elementary students, holding sign that reads "Patriotism"