The courage and sacrifice it takes to keep our country free is a lesson that's hitting home for Bel-Aire Elementary school in Gulfport this Veterans Day. In October, Seabee Raymond Border, whose daughter attends Bel Aire, was killed in Afghanistan. The school held a flag raising ceremony Friday to honor his life.
The American flag symbolizes the rights and freedoms that Chief Petty Officer Raymond Border gave his life to defend. Now that flag comforts a little girl whose father went off to war and never came home.
Ten-year-old Shelva Border told the crowd, "I can hear my dad telling me it's okay. You know how people say they're not with you anymore, but it's not true. They are always with you in your heart."
Congressman Steven Palazzo presented Shelva with an American flag, then she joined her fourth grade classmates in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. The principal said students at Bel Aire took the death of their friend's father very hard. The tragedy gave them a painful lesson on what Veterans Day means.
"It's so abstract for them, unless they have family members - especially parents - that are in the military, for them to really understand the sacrifices," said Principal Heather Blenden. "They're told that, but until it really touches them, it's hard for them to internalize what that really means."
Shelva said at times when the heartache feels unbearable, the support of her family, friends, and teachers helps her feel better.
"I just want to thank my principal and everybody who did this for me and who's honoring my dad. It's very special to me. It's wonderful that they did this for me," Shelva said. "It's very hard, but we need to get through it because my dad wants us to be strong. But I really can't, but I try. Sometimes I can. Sometimes can't. I just really want to honor my school and my dad would thank them so much."
Chief Border was killed just days before the students at Bel-Aire planned to mail him a care package. The principal said the gift was sent to another soldier in Border's honor.
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