TREMONT, Ill. (WMBD) – Fourth graders at Tremont Grade School got a big lesson in the act of service Friday morning.

The young students learned how to retire Military and American flags with the help of local veterans.

The morning began with a ceremony on the school’s lawn where students and veterans spoke about the meaning of the flag. After the ceremony, students learned how to retire a flag and then broke into groups where they cut more than 50 flags into pieces.

Rick Otey, director of Tremont Grade School’s Thursday Morning Fist Bumping Vets Group, helped coordinate the event.

Otey said once a flag is worn, torn, faded and cut up it is no longer a flag and it’s no longer representing the country. He said Friday was a lesson in honor and togetherness.

“All these 55 American flags and the 75 Military flags have been replaced by brand new flags and so it’s an exercise for the students here to know the proper respect for the flag and it’s great for team building,” Otey said.

One student, Gavin Switzer, 10, said he was grateful to be apart of a project that involves helping others.

“It’s pretty much an honor to be here because I’m a big history fan and it makes me feel better for them with what they’ve gone through for our country,” Switzer said.

Students also cut out stars and added them to ‘thank you cards’ which they’ll present to veterans who are going on the Greater Peoria Honor Flight.

Once the flags were cut, students had the opportunity to use the remains to help animals in Tazewell county. The former flags’ fabric pieces were sewn into about 50 pillow cases and donated to TAPS No-Kill Animal Shelter for dog beds.

Liam Donahue, TAPS’ Foster Coordinator, said the shelter relies on donations and the fact that they were coming from kids made the gifts even more special.

“It’s not only a good exercise and a knowledgeable experience for them to learn but also I was talking to some of them and they said it was awesome just to give back,” Donahue said. “They said it felt good so that makes me feel good as well.”

Donahue said they’re hoping to make this an annual event.