Students honor memory of veterans

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Malachi Gratison, left, and Juliana Nascimento, right, students at City Hill Middle School in Naugatuck, place American flags at the gravestones of veterans at St. James Cemetery in Naugatuck Monday. -REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN
Malachi Gratison, left, and Juliana Nascimento, right, students at City Hill Middle School in Naugatuck, place American flags at the gravestones of veterans at St. James Cemetery in Naugatuck Monday. -REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

NAUGATUCK — A history and civics lesson came to life Monday morning for students at City Hill Middle School.

Twenty-eight students, mostly from the Student Council, joined two teachers, the school nurse and three local veterans in replacing 1,800 American flags at the gravestones of veterans at St. James Cemetery on Cross Street.

“This is about appreciating those who have sacrificed for us,” eighth-grade student Nipa Latif said.

The event is part of a tradition started 23 years ago by brothers Bill and Manny Matos, Korean War veterans who live in Naugatuck. Bill Matos said started the tradition when he was working as a custodian at City Hill.

He said he wants students to have a healthy respect for veterans.

“The kids really have a good time doing this,” he said.

Students at City Hill Middle School placed flags on the gravestones of veterans Monday during an annual effort spearheaded by veterans Paul Miller and brothers Bill and Manny Matos. -REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN
Students at City Hill Middle School placed flags on the gravestones of veterans Monday during an annual effort spearheaded by veterans Paul Miller and brothers Bill and Manny Matos. -REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

The Naugatuck Veterans Council makes sure flags are replaced at the grave sites of all veterans in Naugatuck before Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Matos said veterans do the crux of the work, but that the student help is necessary at St. James because it is so large.

Teacher Shelby Adams, Student Council advisor, said the students look forward to the event every year.

Student John Greene said, “We want to notice the veterans and help Naugatuck out.”

Fellow student Sydney Lauer replaced a flag at the gravestone of her grandfather — Korean War veteran Kenneth Ardy Sr., who died in 2012.

“I think this is a great way for us to stop and reflect on all of the people who sacrificed for us,” Lauer said.