ROTC high school students honor fallen service members at cemeteries in Anderson

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ANDERSON, S.C. (WSPA) – A new joint service flag was at half-staff at three public cemeteries on Monday. ROTC students from T.L. Hanna and Westside High Schools placed the flags for Memorial Day.

Anderson School District Five said this was made possible through a joint partnership between the district, the city and county.

“This is something that has been two years in the works. I’m happy because the school district, the city and the county came together on something, but it should’ve been done anyway. It doesn’t matter who came together,” said Coach Dickie Smith, Community Engagement Liaison for Anderson School District Five.

The flag which displays the military branches, can be seen at Westview, New Silver Brook, and the Old Silver Brook cemeteries.

“We thought it was important for us to raise the joint service flag during Memorial Day. We were going to plan to do little flags, but since we weren’t ready for that this year, we’re going to try that next year,” said Louis Fragoso, Army Instructor at Westside High School.

For some participating, this struck a personal chord.

“For me, it’s super important because I did lose fellow soldiers during Iraq. I deployed four times, so I lost at least four soldiers,” Fragoso said. “It makes me feel good because, it’s important to me, that way they understand that it’s just not about barbecuing. It’s about honoring those who’ve fallen for their freedoms,” he added.

Coach Smith lost one of his friends back in high school. Smith’s friend served as a Marine in Vietnam.

“He made a sacrifice, that any of us breathing never did. He joined the Marines with a buddy of his in high school,” Coach Smith said.

Smith said his friend never returned home.

“It’s a supreme sacrifice. I served four years. I didn’t make that kind of sacrifice, but they did. And people need to realize, that a lot of people didn’t come home,” Coach Smith said.

With one foot in front of the other, students took each stride as a walk to remember. It was a sacrifice they made on their day off to honor those who gave the ultimate one.

“It’s different. And those kids that came out today, that give you some hope that maybe we could all come together and find out just what page we’re on,” Smith said.

“As part of ROTC, this is just one of the things we do, we honor all the armed forces, holidays, especially Memorial Day to honor fallen soldiers, marines, sailors, airmen,” said Landon Wright, student at T.L. Hanna High School. “We committed today to show up, even though it’s our day off because we love doing this,” Wright said.

Wright said it’s all about remembering our freedom and those who lost their lives to make it happen.

“Well people can learn that they have the right to take the day off and cook out, or go to the lake or whatever– because that’s what these fallen soldiers fought for. They died for our country, serving it, so that people could have this day off,” Wright said.

“These people, when they signed that line, they don’t know where they’re going. When they make a pledge to serve their country, and every veteran does that. And I think today should be more than cookouts. You should remember why you’re here,” Smith said.

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