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IMS students’ banner for soldiers heads to Pentagon

Cheers echoed around the gym, loud enough that passersby outside Ironton Middle School probably stopped to listen.

Friday, January 11, 2002

Cheers echoed around the gym, loud enough that passersby outside Ironton Middle School probably stopped to listen.

"USA USA USA," the students roared.

Into the middle of the floor, U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland walked smiling. Then, the Congressman asked the calming crowd to help him recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Roaring in unison, each one held hand over heart as they spoke the words.

"I want to thank you," Strickland said afterward. "Not only for the way you just greeted me But I want to thank you for the enthusiasm with which you pledged allegiance to our flag."

Like everyone should, you said the pledge like you meant it, he added.

Strickland’s visit came as the school’s 372 students finished a memorial banner, complete with the words "Land of the free, Home of the brave," and white paper stars carrying individual messages from the youngsters.

Later this month, the banner will hang with others from around the country in the Pentagon, serving as a tribute to soldiers fighting once again for American freedoms. The banners will also honor those who fell on Sept. 11 at the Pentagon, in New York City and in Pennsylvania.

Some banners will be sent overseas, to fly aboard ships or at troop encampments or on bases, Strickland said.

"They will know the young people here in America appreciate what they’re trying to do," he said. "They risk their lives so we can enjoy the freedoms we enjoy."

Students also spoke out during the assembly, repeating Strickland’s thanks to the troops fighting terrorist threats overseas.

Strickland also spoke to the students about the terrible events of Sept. 11 and that there are people in the world who do not believe in personal freedoms. It’s a special privilege to be a part of a country that values freedom, he added.

"So we gather in a large part today to celebrate America and show appreciation for the young men and women who are risking their lives for us; and the day before yesterday, seven lost their lives in a plane crash.

"I think it’s important, don’t you, that the men and women serving us in the military understand our appreciation for what they’re doing and this banner is one way to show that."

The messages on the Ironton Middle School banner, touching personal notes, range from "stay strong in the war" and "thank you for fighting for us" to "love you all and hope you get back soon."

Strickland said he will try to make sure the banner moves from the Pentagon to the overseas troops.