MONTVILLE, NJ – In a very special ceremony, every year members of Montville’s Veterans of Foreign War Post 5481 travel to each cemetery in Montville and, assisted by students from Lazar Middle School, exchange the American flags at each veteran’s gravesite.

But with Montville schools being closed due to the COVID-19 crisis and the mostly senior citizen standing of post members, performing the ceremony was not possible.

So Lazar teacher Rick Crescente, who heads up the field trip every year, gathered educators and conducted the ceremony with his colleagues.

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“This year would have been the 14th year that [Lazar teacher] Michelle Trautmann and I took students on the flag trip,” Crescente told TAPinto Montville. “It is always my favorite day of the year.” 

Those that helped included: Lazar social studies teacher and football/baseball /bowling coach Rick Cresente; Lazar special education teachers Nicole Rudge and Michelle Trautmann; Athletic Director Wayne Guarino; head softball coach and elementary phys ed teacher John Immediato; Lazar English teacher Jacki Keiser; Lazar social studies teacher Chris Carman; Lazar science teacher Matt Myers; Lazar school nurse Eleanor Klinger; head football coach, assistant wrestling coach and high school phys ed teacher Rick DeBonta; Montville resident and paraprofessional Joyce Karakos.

Post 5481 members who helped with the preparation and flag placement ceremony included: Post Adjutant Joe Coll, Post Chaplain and Color Guard Captain Dominick D’Andrea and post trustee Chip Cutler. Art Graf helped with the flag procurement and general assistance was provided by Post Advisor Emeritus Joe Quade.

“With the help of all of the volunteers, the Stars and Stripes once again wave across the green lawns of the cemeteries as a visual reminder to our community of their own veterans buried there,” Post Commander Ken Hanzl said. “I wish to extend my sincere gratitude to our post members, the great group of Montville Township school system employees and our township friends who were able to continue this ‘Flags-In’ tradition during these trying times.”

Post member D’Andrea was also thankful.

“Rick and Joe Coll did a great job of gathering volunteers and materials to achieve outstanding results,” D’Andrea said. “I’m happy that we were able to once again recognize our deceased veterans. My thanks to all the teachers who stepped up to stand in when the students weren’t permitted.”

But even though the students couldn’t participate in commemorating Memorial Day with the veterans, it didn’t stop Crescente from reminding them of the importance of the day.

“We also have our classes making Memorial Day projects,” Crescente said. “We basically had the students make or do something in honor of Memorial Day and are having them send us a picture or video of it. We will take all the pictures and videos of their projects to send the veterans as well!” The projects that Crescente and Carman created are in the photo gallery.

To view the video Crescente made of Flags-In project, go to: Flags-In

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