Three-fourths of Americans responding to a Gallup poll said they are less patriotic today than in previous decades. The poll revealed feelings of patriotism varied by age, with younger adults least likely to feel very patriotic.

The VFW and its Auxiliaries are working to change that.

Natalie Honts, a teacher at SC Lee Junior High and the wife of an Army veteran, doesn’t miss the opportunity to teach her students to be grateful for their freedoms. Honts was recently selected as VFW Post 8577’s Teacher of the Year in the middle school category for her efforts to instill patriotism in her students.

“She explicitly teaches students what it means to them as citizens when they stand, face the flag every morning, and recite the pledge of allegiance and how closely that allegiance is tied to our military community,” said Jill Guerin, instructional coach at SC Lee. Guerin nominated Honts for the award.

Students who raise the flag each morning at schools throughout Copperas Cove have learned to not let it touch the ground and how to properly fold and unfold it.

The VFW Ladies Auxiliary in Cove also has a Junior Girls Club that is part of a national program, but Cove has the only active club in the state.

“We teach them how to be good citizens and respect the freedoms that they enjoy daily,” said Bonnie Henderson, the Junior Girls adviser. “The girls prepare care packages for service members overseas, volunteer in hospitals and nursing homes, march in parades and learn about patriotism and the history of our country.”

The Junior Girls meet the second Saturday of each month at VFW Post 8577, 1506 Veterans Ave., and is open to girls ages 5-16. Following the monthly meetings, the girls make crafts, cards and other creations for the veterans at the VA Hospital in Temple.

“In Junior Girls, we help families and veterans. My dad is a veteran. So I am doing this for my family,” said Elizabeth Sawyer, a member of Junior Girls. “It is cool visiting with the veterans and hearing their experiences with war.”

The Kempner VFW 3393 Ladies Auxiliary takes its patriotism program inside the Boys & Girls Clubs in Copperas Cove three to four times a year to teach children to value their freedoms and those who fought for those freedoms, said Jerri Geske, Ladies Auxiliary president, who teaches the workshops.

Contact Wendy Sledd at or (254) 501-7476

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