Sharpsburg Elementary School fifth-grader Kahlin Stydinger said placing American flags on the graves at Antietam National Cemetery was a way to reward the Civil War soldiers buried there because of what they fought for.
“That’s the only reason why we don’t have slavery today,” she said. “All of these people sacrificed their lives.”
“These people helped this country be one and unite both halves, the south and the north,” he said. “We’re just remembering them for their great thing that they did.”
Kahlin and Mason, both 11, were among the nearly 50 fifth-graders at the school who placed American flags on the nearly 4,800 graves at the cemetery on Friday.
The students walked from the school to the cemetery and listened to a presentation from Antietam National Battlefield Park Ranger Mike Gamble.
“Each one of the soldiers buried here had a family,” he said. “They are here at their final resting place for what they believed in.”
Gamble said after the presentation that placing the flags is a way for the students to take part in Sharpsburg’s Memorial Day activities.
“It’s a very important part of the whole weekend,” he said. “The whole town goes out for Memorial Day.”
Before placing the flags, the park rangers demonstrated to the students how to do it by standing in front of a grave and sticking one in the ground.
Danielle Wyand, one of the fifth-grade teachers at the school, said placing the flags on the graves is something that will stick with the students for the rest of their lives.
“It’s Memorial Day and it’s their town, and they are all Sharpsburg kids through and through,” she said. “They will always remember that they got to come up here and do something that everyone else got to see.”
Wyand added that her class has been covering the Civil War recently and the importance of what the soldiers did.
Sharpsburg fifth-grader Rebecca Bauer, 11, said learning about the Civil War has made it even more important for her to honor the soldiers who died.
“It’s just been important to see how many people were dead, injured or missing, and it just kind of makes me feel sad,” she said. “This makes me feel a little better because I know I’m doing the right thing.”
Sharpsburg fifth-grader Jay Jansson, 11, added that being at the cemetery helped him learn how important it is not to do the wrong thing.
“So many boys and girls sacrificed their lives for the freedom of everybody else that’s in this town and that’s in this country,” he said.
Soldiers from the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II and the Korean War are buried at the cemetery, Gamble said.