Kline School shows unflagging support

Students at private campus raise a flag sent to them by U.S. Marines serving in the war in Iraq.This summer, the faculty and students at Kline School made a gesture to honor their country.

A month later, their country returned the favor.

In June and July, the students at the small Costa Mesa private school -- enrollment is about 50 -- wrote letters and sent pictures to soldiers stationed in Iraq.

One of the students at the school, 12-year-old Aaron White, has a family friend serving in the war. Along with the letters and art collages, the school sent over a stack of DVDs and a photo of students holding up a massive 30-by-20-foot American flag -- which the school purchased as a tribute after Sept. 11.

To thank the school for its support, the Marines sent back a flag that they flew from a helicopter during a combat mission in August. On Friday, the school raised the flag on its pole outside to commemorate Veterans Day.

"I think we're very privileged that we, at this school, attend school on this important day," principal Susan Kline told the students during the morning ceremony. "Most of your peers are probably taking the day off at the mall or taking an extra day at Disneyland."

While the Newport-Mesa Unified School District closed all its campuses for Veterans Day, Kline remained open as usual. For one day only, the school flew the Marines' flag on its pole -- afterward, the administration planned to encase it for preservation -- and held a ceremony in which teacher Nancy Patino read from a letter Lt. Col. Clark Taylor mailed to the students.

Taylor, a friend of Aaron's parents, thanked the students for their support and also answered a number of questions they had sent him. Jack Good, 9, asked what soldiers ate while on duty; Taylor replied that they often subsisted on MREs, or meals ready to eat.

Ryan McCully, 8, asked if Taylor thought his mission would improve the situation in Iraq.

"The Iraqi government has already come a long way since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, yet there is still a long way to go," Taylor responded. "As long as American troops are in Iraq, we will do everything within our power to help the Iraqi people build a government and a country that is based on freedom and democracy."

In addition to the letter, Taylor also sent an official plaque honoring Kline School for its support. Students said they were moved by the Marines' response.

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