For as long as she can remember, American Legion Auxiliary member Jackie Brauser has had a sense of deep respect for military servicemembers, including her father, John Regester, who enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1967 and served in the Vietnam War.
“We come from a family of servicemembers who have a lot of pride in our country,” said Brauser, noting that her uncle and grandfather also served in the military. “It was something my dad and mom instilled in us. They taught us not only to have pride in our country but to respect veterans. My dad served as a model of how to respect veterans whenever we met them. He would expect us to shake their hand, look them in the eye, and thank them for their service.”
When her father passed away in 2018, Brauser, along with her mother, Linda Regester, and four sisters, became more active in the Auxiliary to honor his legacy, including his dedication as a member of the Frank Kresen American Legion Post 24 in Lake Geneva, Wisc., and military service that led to him earning a 2,000-hour flight pin, and protecting airspace along with his military unit during the descent of the Apollo 13 mission.
Although she lives in Medina, Ohio, Brauser continues to be active with the ALA Unit 24 in her hometown of Lake Geneva. Brauser, who also is a Girl Scout leader for her daughter’s troop, often leads activities related to her Auxiliary membership, including wreath laying at the veterans cemetery, marching in the Memorial Day parade, and visiting veterans nursing homes.
Brauser realizes that not all youth grow up with an appreciation of what it means to serve in the military. In her role as director of admissions and development for St. Francis Xavier School, a private Catholic school in Medina, Brauser regularly encourages patriotism for their country.
Using the personal insights she gained as an ALA member, Brauser took that commitment even further by recently organizing an assembly on American flag etiquette for more than 150 students.
What made you decide to host a flag etiquette assembly?
Our school principal, Danene Beal, knows how important respecting our military, our country, and our flag is to me, so she asked me to teach our fifth to eighth graders how to properly fold an American flag. I was excited about organizing an event because I would see students not respecting the flag as they should. It’s not their fault. No one had ever taught them.
How did you plan the flag etiquette assembly?
When I was working on the logistics, I wondered how a middle school student would respond to me. To make sure students were fully engaged, I decided to bring in active-duty military members to teach flag etiquette. I contacted our local U.S. Army recruiting station for volunteers to demonstrate how to raise and fold the flag, how to hold and store it, and why we show it the respect we do. I also reached out to Col. David W. Taylor, an Army veteran and member of American Legion Post 202 in Medina, and Father Curtis Kondik, our school’s parochial vicar who had served as an Army veteran chaplain. They all did a phenomenal job connecting with our students.
Do you have any tips for a successful event?
Reach out to your local recruiting office because they already work with younger people. You also can reach out to the veterans connected to your school, such as a parent who is active duty or retired. Having extra flags on hand also was important. American Legion Post 202 donated the four American flags we used at our assembly. The flags allowed students to break up into small groups to practice flag folding.
How did the students respond?
Although students are always respectful when a guest speaker comes in, they sat up a little straighter when they saw the servicemembers in their uniform. I had also set a level of expectation that when a veteran walks into a room, you give them extra respect. Our students loved it. They were smiling, listening, and interacting with our guests.
ALA member Jackie Brauser
American Legion Auxiliary Unit: Unit 24 in Lake Geneva, Wisc.
Eligibility through: John Patrick Regester, father, (U.S. Navy veteran)
Years in the ALA: 10 years
By Shari Finnell