Students pay tribute to fallen soldier | News
ROCKFORD, Mich. (WZZM) -- The memorial service for 24-year-old U.S. Army Specialist Zachary Shanafelt of Rockford was held Friday morning.
Shanafelt died last week from injuries he sustained in Afghanistan last year.
The service for Shanafelt took place at a downtown Rockford funeral home. Just as his casket was brought out, 600 students from nearby Valley View Elementary School lined up with American flags.
They walked the mile or so from school to learn what can't be taught in the classroom.
In school, students learn the meaning behind the red, white, and blue, and why we have our freedom. Yet Valley View Elementary School principal Bob Siegel also wanted his students to learn about the hardship and sacrifice that comes with freedom.
"A funeral in downtown Rockford seemed like the perfect opportunity to teach our children how important it is to respect those who have given their lives as sacrifice," said Siegel.
Nearly 600 students from the first through fifth grades crowded along the street to honor their hometown hero.
"I learned that the people who serve the military sacrifice a lot for their country and I learned to be more respectful of everything," said student Phylisia Winter.
"I just wish he could be with us," said Taylor Artz.
"That surprised me that everyone pulled together," said Phyllis King, fifth grade teacher and mother. "With 600 children -- to hear almost nothing over the crowd, but see that they were moved by the ceremony -- was pretty awesome."
The funeral director told the crowd Shanafelt would have welcomed them with open arms because he loved kids. He had a young son of his own with his wife, Marina.
Now school leaders hope the kids will use the moment to learn the virtues and values that go with living in this country.
"The lessons that these children will learn just from this few minutes down here that they will take with them on patriotism and supporting each other will just go with each other for the rest of their lives," said King.
"They may have a little more appreciation for the services of the country," said Colleen Artz, Taylor's mother.
"There's not a prouder moment for me as a principal then today," said Siegel.