NAUGATUCK — St. Francis of Assisi School, a small Catholic institution on Church Street, recently received an American flag with an uncommon distinction.
That flag had been flown over the American Embassy in Afghanistan during the wars which have all but defined this past decade.
Kevin Braziel, a former Marine sergeant and diplomatic security officer in the State Department, presented the flag to the school to recognize its recent donation of five boxes of personal items to troops in Afghanistan. His daughter, Jasmine, attends St. Francis.
U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry authorized the gift.
“We fear not what we do,” Braziel said to students at an assembly Thursday afternoon. “We know, in the end, all you little guys are worth it. One of you, if not more, will make a huge difference in this country someday. … You can do whatever your heart desires, and we will gladly give our lives for you.”
The soldiers who received items from the care packages were ecstatic, according to Braziel.
“We got those boxes, and [the men] came running out like a bunch of little kids,” he said. “Grown men, acting like it was Christmas and Santa just came. … It made the difference, and it made them so happy.”
Students recited a special rosary for military men and women before Braziel, with some help from Jasmine and his 2-year-old son Cross, presented the flag to Principal Tom Fuller.
“We have cried, we have bled, we’ve lost hundreds of thousands over these colors,” Braziel said. “[This flag] was flown in the face of the enemy, in defiance of tyranny and in defiance of terrorism.”
Braziel, Fuller, and Deputy Mayor Tamath Rossi tried to impart the gravity of war and soldiers’ personal sacrifices in terms pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade students could understand.
“The rain never stops for the soldiers, and the wind never stops for the soldiers,” Rossi said. “[In Iraq and Afghanistan], it’s very hot, it’s uncomfortable, and it’s not uncomfortable for a few hours, like when you’re in school and you have to sit on that hard chair, and then you get to go home and relax. They don’t have that.”
While the school sang “God Bless America,” about a dozen students formed a circle around Braziel and his family and held flags and red, white and blue decorations.
Before dismissing the assembly, Fuller made a few closing remarks.
“The New England Patriots and the New York Jets are not heroes, even though we talk about them all the time,” he said. “This man is a hero.”