The Louisiana State Council,
reviving an effort to increase VVA community involvement, has
recognized two Louisiana teachers - a high school teacher and
an elementary school teacher - for outstanding efforts to
promote and teach patriotism and love of country.
VVA member Leslie DeLong, who headed the Teacher's Award
Committee, said the award had been discussed at state council
meetings several years ago, but that no action had been taken.
DeLong, noting she had a personal interest in the project
going forward, brought the matter up at a state council
meeting in June 2002 and agreed to organize the program.
"I'm not really sure why I decided to do something,'' she
said. "For years, I watched quietly as people forgot where we
came from as a country. I know I taught my son to have respect
for the flag and veterans and the country itself. Not that it
meant he had to agree with everyone and everything. But to
respect it all.''
DeLong, who is married to Louisiana State Council President
Richard DeLong, is an Air Force veteran and Vietnam era
veteran. She said the project involved considerable time and
work - on some occasions more than she anticipated.
"The state council had been trying to involve itself in the
community, and the idea bounced around for four or five years.
But nobody wanted to carry it through because it involved so
much work,'' she said.
The teachers will be recognized in a June ceremony. Each will
receive $500 and a commemorative plaque.
The winning high school teacher, Monica Kirkendall, teaches
American history in Lake Charles. She had students develop
Power Point presentations of American wars and veterans
beginning with World War I and ending with the Persian Gulf.
The students gathered examples of period music, photos, and
other illustrations of the respective historical periods and
melded the items into the computer presentations. At the end
of the project, they conducted a memorial for their school
alumni who served in those wars, as well as a Veterans Day
The elementary school winner, Betty Frye, is a veteran speech
therapist who will be retiring this year. She began
documenting her efforts to teach patriotic subjects in 1985.
She has been working with the E.S. Richardson Elementary
School Honor Guard in Minden since 1983. The honor guard, a
group of four students she oversees during the year, raises
and lowers the flag each day and insures that flags are
displayed correctly at special programs. She has conducted
Veterans Day programs every year since 1984. They often
involve elaborate musical and drama presentations by her
DeLong said she was encouraged by the success of the Louisiana
State Council's first effort. Seventy-five public and
parochial schools were invited to participate and most did.
There were some problems along the way, but she is confident
the program will see smooth sailing in the years to come.
"A lot of things that we didn't get done this year will get
done next year,'' she said. "But if all the information had
been disseminated, it's possible we would have been
overwhelmed with applications. I don't think we would have
been able to deal with it, but we'll be better prepared next