Inspiration comes from many places, and for Grand Haven (Mich.) special education teacher Jan Clark, inspiration for the annual Patriot Hall Memorial event at Grand Haven's Ferry Elementary and Voyager School came while watching a History Channel program on taking a veteran to school. “I come from a military/Coast Guard family,” said Clark. “My father, brothers, husband and sons all serve(d) and I wanted to create a program for our elementary school children on respecting and honoring the men and women of our U.S. military and Coast Guard.” Clark reached out to Charles A. Conklin American Legion Post 28 past commander and Honor Guard Commander David “Mack” MacKellar for help in generating program ideas. MacKellar said he knew Clark’s vision was more than a traditional classroom module. “This was a collaborative vision,” said MacKellar, who contacted fellow Legionnaires at Post 28 and members of the local VFW Post 2326, who with MacKellar and Clark designed an interactive educational event called “Patriot Hall Memorial," held annually at Ferry Elementary and Voyage School.
How does the program work? Post 28 Legionnaires and Post 2326 members create an “interactive learning station environment” in the school gym, where students from every classroom meet with the veterans to learn about various aspects of our country’s military and Coast Guard pride and honor. For example, Past Post 28 Commander Chris Jarvis gives students “hands-on” experience in properly and respectfully folding the American flag. The meaning of the Purple Heart (explained by a Purple Heart recipient) and the history and importance of the Navajo Code Talkers are just two more examples -- of several -- on how the students interact with veterans and learn. At the call of the bosun, classrooms take turns visiting the Patriot Hall Memorial. Clark said the Patriot Hall Memorial is very emotional for her – especially this year, when she will retire from teaching.
The annual Patriot Hall Memorial program is a great example of how Charles A. Conklin Post 28 continues the tradition of fulfilling the “Four Pillars” -- by collaborating and building alliances with the local community and local veterans service organizations (VSOs).