COOTER, MO (KFVS) - Many school children begin their day saying the pledge of allegiance. But it wasn't always that way at one elementary school in Southeast Missouri.
That is until Cooter students and a staff member who is also a veteran decided to change that.
Pam Schlapak says she feels patriotism should be an important part of school.
"That flag is the reason why we are free," said Schlapak. "I grew up saying the pledge. We can't take that for granted."
She went to principal Debbie Morgan on a mission to see patriotic pride echo through the halls of Cooter schools again. Morgan says had taken over as principal just a few years before and she says for some reason years prior the school just stopped making the familiar salute part of the daily drill.
"I totally agreed we should be saying it," said Morgan. "I want people to know there's food going on in our schools. We are still one nation under God and we are proud to be patriotic."
So they decided to do it in a big way.
Schlapak got together a team of young men, now fifth graders and trained them in flag etiquette.
"We are proud to see the flag fly," said Luke Perkins.
"We learn how to fold it and not let it touch the ground," said Chris Crowder.
It's a job they take very seriously from their daily duty to special ceremonies.
"It brings tears to my eyes," said Schlapak.
Schlapak bought the team shirts to show her appreciation. She's from a long line of veterans. Her own son currently serves in the Navy.
"This school loves saying the pledge," she said.
Longtime residents and staff members say the movement has been inspiring for everyone in town. Especially for Glenda O'Kane who sings the National Anthem at school sporting events.
"I think it's important to pass on the message of freedom and make it visible and alive," said O'Kane.
As for the students they say they will make sure the message of unity and freedom always remains strong in Cooter.
"We are proud to do it," said Preston Hatch.
The team who raises the flag, Layton Robinson, Logan Puckett, and Hatch, Perkins, and Crowder were chosen based on good citizen ship and merit. They say will continue the tradition in High School and never take reciting the pledge for granted.