When fifth grader Daniel Cardito looks at the American flag he doesn't just see stars and stripes.
"The red, I imagine it represents the blood lost from the soldiers who died fighting for our freedom," Cardito, a student at in Malverne wrote in his award-winning Flag Day essay. "The white represents the goodness that everyone is treated fairly because we all have the same rights [and] when I look at the blue, I see a big open sky that remains open for anyone."
Cardito was one of 12 local students who were recently honored by the for their outstanding essays on the importance of the American flag. First, second and third place prizes were awarded to students from Our Lady of Lourdes, as well as , and , with each one receiving a check and a flag set of their own.
The first place winners were then invited to read their essays aloud to an audience of veterans, families, village officials and fellow students gathered inside on June 14 for Malverne's annual Flag Day ceremony.
Davison Avenue winner Matthew Avvinti said, "The American flag is one of a kind and I am truly proud to be an American." He told the crowd that he flies a flag outside his family's home and has the honor of holding the flag at Cub Scouts while saying the Pledge of Allegiance.
Taylar Dingle, who earned first place among her classmates at Grace Lutheran, said the flag's "beautiful stripes and courageous stars" remind her of "how far America has come and how much further it will go."
"Our symbol has fought with our soldiers during war ... cried with us during bad times. [It] has been through it all," she wrote, adding, "It symbolizes my happiness to be from a country that fights for what it stands for and stands for what it believes in."
Howard T. Herber Middle School first place winner Katherine McGuinness, who wore a T-shirt that depicted the flag's stars and stripes, said the American flag symbolizes being free, patriotic and brave.
"All the men and women who fight for our country are brave. Freedom and bravery is something we all have," she stated. "Being American means being free and being who you are, be you. We are all the same and we may make look and act different but one thing is for sure, we are all special."
The other award recipients were as follows:
Second Place: Paul Magno (OLL), Rashad Forte (Davison), Jack Cecere (Herber) and Jonathan Wilds (Grace Lutheran)
Third Place: Maggie Basile (OLL), Jack Cecere Molly Fishermen (Herber), Olivia Marco (Davison) and Stephanie Jenkins (Grace Lutheran)
Click through the gallery above to see photos from the Flag Day ceremony held in Malverne this year.