7Panaca Elementary School principal Pete Peterson was honored last December with a ceremony and plaque by the Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine.

This is the organization that places wreaths each year in early December on all the tombstones at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C. including the Tomb of the Unknowns.

Elementary schools from all around the nation are invited to attend and place the wreaths, and for the past eight years, Panaca Elementary has been doing so under the leadership of Peterson.

In 2011, the company started an annual tradition of recognizing principals and teachers who teach patriotism and about Arlington, etc. This year Peterson was honored at a special ceremony and dinner held in College Park, Md. at a local lodge building.

“Normally, it has been a surprise for the person honored,” he said, “but they called me about a week before and told me what was going to happen and [asked] could I be at one of two places on a given date.”

The award he received is made of the same marble or granite stone from the same quarry as are the headstones at Arlington Cemetery. It has a single word “TEACH” on it he said. On the wooden base is a small brass name plate engraved with his name and the date of the award. “It’s all about 5-6 inches tall. The base and all, looks just like a 2-by-6,” he said.

Panaca Elementary has been taking part in the wreath laying program since 2006.

“Apparently, they think it is pretty impressive that a group from a small rural town in eastern Nevada will raise the money and bring 70 to 75 people all the way across the country to participate in their program every year, that our town supports in fund raising efforts and so,” he said.

Peterson said he was gone on the trip every year except one and leader of the group six of the eight years.
When the day of the ceremony was to take place, Peterson said he wanted to take the entire group there, “but we had walked so much that day, and the nearest D.C. subway was four miles away, I decided to rent a 12-passenger van and take only a few who wanted to go to the pre-arranged location in College Park that evening.”

He made a short speech upon receiving the award, mostly about what the students learn in school about patriotism and the meaning of the cemetery, as well as a few details of what the kids do as follow up at school, and what activities they do each year to raise money for the trip.

He said one woman at the ceremony spoke up about she knew where Panaca, was, because she had visited there herself and even knew Sandy Olson. While Mrs. Olson was on the trip with them, she did not attend the award ceremony.

Peterson said the whole D.C trip each year would certainly not be possible without the help and support of many local parents and townspeople.