STANTON — “O say can you see by the dawn’s early light, what so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming? Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight …”
Those words were penned on an envelope in Francis Scott Key’s pocket as he sat in a prison on an English warship, witnessing a battle for freedom.
Fifth grade student Brielle Collins read those powerful words to a packed gymnasium of friends, family, and most importantly, veterans at the 35th annual We Love America Parade in the Central Montcalm High School gymnasium Friday morning.
The annual We Love America Parade began as the elementary students marched into the gym accompanied by marches played by the high school band, under the direction of Mark Reed. Most dressed in the colors of red, white and blue, and waving flags, the students filled the bleachers ready to sing and perform the patriotic songs.
“Francis Scott Key must have felt very weird and very scared as he watched, and then very happy when he saw our flag be raised,” said Collins.
The students watched as members of the Sheridan VFW and Stanton American Legion presented the colors.
Among the honored guests in attendance was Elden “Bus” Adams, a Stanton resident who is also a World War II veteran. A first lieutenant serving in Borg, Germany, Adams was wounded and later received the prestigious purple heart. He has attended all 35 We Love America Parade celebrations.
“Francis Scott Key must have felt proud to see the flag flying,” said fifth grade student Caleb Holland. “I feel proud when I see it and I hope you hold it close to your heart the rest of your life.”
Members of the different branches of the Armed Service were honored along with 23 members of the Hotel Company, H Company, 2nd Battalion, 26th Marines Division.
“While he was captive, Francis Scott Key saw the rockets’ red glare and the bombs bursting in air. He was a witness to the war,” shared Riley Christensen, a fifth grade essayist. “And when the battle was done, and he could still see the flag, what joy and pride there must have been. This was one of the most important events in our nation’s history.”
Austin Georgiades expertly played the solemn sounds of “Taps” on his coronet, while the audience took a moment of silence to reflect.
“Whenever we sing our National Anthem, we should sing it proudly for our country,” said Kaitlyn Hansen, a fifth grade speaker.
Correspondent Lori Hansen is a Greenville-area resident.