South Orangetown Central School District

In recognition of Memorial Day, Karen Sutton’s third-grade class led Cottage Lane Elementary School’s patriotism-themed assembly and honored Gold Star families presented by the Vetiquette program. CLE students, teachers and School Counselor Stephanie Chahales honored the families of U.S. military members including Army 1LT Louis E. Allen, Army Corporal Manny Lopez, Army CPT Philip T. Esposito and Marine Corps Sergeant Christopher Hrbek last week as part of their character education assembly. The theme for May is “Communities work together to understand each other.”

The event is part of an ongoing, annual collaboration with Vetiquette, which teaches children about the sacrifices of veterans through projects and assemblies during which Gold Star families tell their stories. CLE Principal Karen Scarth, Ed.D. first began working with Vetiquette founder Maureen Kelly to coordinate these events at CLE for more than 10 years ago. Each year, classes learn about fallen veterans from WWII to today and create a quilt inspired by their life story.

“Every year we are moved by the messages that each of our Gold Star families share about their child’s story as a soldier. Our goal is that the students will learn about the sacrifices of veterans and their families and that students will take on a future service project to show gratitude for these special people and their families,” said CLE Assistant Principal Rob Schleissman, Ed.D. “At CLE, each class creates a quilt that we hope the family receives as a message knowing that their child is never forgotten. We look forward to working with Vetiquette every year.”

The Gold Star families not only spoke at the grade-wide assemblies, but they also visited classes to answer questions that students had about their loved ones. Jaymee Hodges, stepfather of Chris Hrbek, spoke with Denise Murphy’s fourth grade class after the assembly and students got to see the awards that Chris was posthumously awarded including the Bronze Star and Purple Heart Medals. “I am so grateful that you all want to learn more about our loved ones and that your class took the time to make this quilt. I want you to know that our family displays each of the quilts that students here have made over the years at events that we hold to honor Chris so people can learn more about him through your quilts,” said Hodges.

Vetiquette program at CLE