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'You cant pledge to a flag when you dont have a flag'
Group promotes patriotism by providing flags to school
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GAINESVILLE — All East Hall High School students now have a flag to salute when they say the Pledge of Allegiance in the morning.

"When I taught here, everybody had a flag in their room. But, for whatever reason through time, the (flags) kind of dwindled away," said principal Jeff Cooper.

He and school resource officer Earl Roach went class to class Thursday morning, pushing a metal media center cart carrying the new 16-inch by 24-inch flags and handing them to teachers throughout the 1,100-student school.

Teachers seemed appreciative, saying thank you and asking where they should place the flag.

One teacher, Johnny Smith, saluted the flag as Cooper placed it before him.

Heather Barrett, who teaches biology, human anatomy and physiology, said she thought the flag distribution was "a wonderful thing."

"A lot of students need to be more patriotic," she said, adding that she believes they "need to know what it really means to live in America."

Woodmen of the World, a fraternal organization that operates an insurance company for its members, donated the flags, which Cooper estimates would have cost the school about $800.

The effort began with the school looking to have its Naval Junior ROTC unit lead the school daily in the Pledge of Allegiance and moment of silence.

In that process, Roach approached Cooper and mentioned that many of the classrooms didn’t have a flag. Cooper asked Roach to check into mending the situation.

"You can’t pledge to a flag when you don’t have a flag," Cooper said.

Within an hour, Roach returned to say that Woodmen of the World had agreed to make the donation.

"I found some of the old flags we had that say (Woodmen of the World) on the wooden (base)," Roach said.

Chris Barnes, a Gainesville-based Woodmen agent, said that Woodmen lodge dues pay for the flags, which are given away to different groups, including fire departments, churches and schools.

The group also gives away Christian flags to churches.

"It’s just a community activity that we do," he said.

It also strikes a deeper chord for Barnes.

"I’m very patriotic, but obviously the company I represent is very patriotic as well," he said.

Barnes said he was disappointed to see "prayer leave schools" and efforts to remove the pledge because of the reference to "one nation under God."

"I’m proud of the heritage of the United States and don’t like to vary from that," he said.

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