Student gives retired flags renewed purpose

Johnstown High School junior Seth Ward displays a tattered, retired American flag in front of students at the school to show the kind of flag from which he cut out and washed stars to hand out as a tribute to veterans, active military and first responders. (Photo submitted)

JOHNSTOWN — Johnstown High School junior Seth Ward’s project to honor veterans started out with his “great admiration” for members of his family who served in the military.

Ward said he began in early October gathering worn-out flags from area organizations. Then, he spent hours cutting out and washing the 800 stars to hand out to veterans, active military and first responders.

Thursday he gave out hundreds of the stars to fellow students, teachers and other staff in a school lecture hall.

He got the idea from his father who met Susan Wells, a woman who runs in Utica.

“The stars are part of our flag, something veterans have fought for and defended,” said Ward.

Ward gathered retired flags from Veterans of Foreign Wars posts in Fonda and Broadalbin, an American Legion post in Gloversville and Lavilla Dog Works in Johnstown. He plans to present stars to the donating organizations, including larger stars in shadow boxes.

All the smaller stars are enclosed in plastic bags with the zip code 12095 and a message: “I am part of our American flag that has flown over the USA. I can no longer fly. The sun and winds caused me to become tattered and torn. Please carry me as a reminder that ‘You are not forgotten’.”

Julia Sarullo, a senior who is signed up to join the Marines in July, said she values what Ward is doing because military members are willing to sacrifice their lives to protect their fellow Americans. She said her boyfriend is currently in Marine boot camp.

Junior Grace Fitzgerald echoed that sentiment and said, “It’s important to honor them [military] and the stars are a good way to do it.”

“I think it shows how we’re [as Americans] whole and together through everything,” said freshman Dawson Sanges.

Principal Scott Hale said that when Ward came to him about the project, he thought, “What a great idea.”

He said the students are “optimistic and excited about it.”

Ward, who is taking a criminal justice course at the Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Educational Services in Johnstown, said he is considering joining the military after graduation, possibly in the military police.

He said he timed the star program to debut around Veterans Day, but added, the stars “can be handed out anytime.”