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Ramstein High School students Nichole Swalko, Leasa Medina and Rachel Van Buren, left to right, work on paper stars that people with deployed friends or family members can hang up in support of troops.

Ramstein High School students Nichole Swalko, Leasa Medina and Rachel Van Buren, left to right, work on paper stars that people with deployed friends or family members can hang up in support of troops. (Marni McEntee / S&S)

Ramstein High School students Nichole Swalko, Leasa Medina and Rachel Van Buren, left to right, work on paper stars that people with deployed friends or family members can hang up in support of troops.

Ramstein High School students Nichole Swalko, Leasa Medina and Rachel Van Buren, left to right, work on paper stars that people with deployed friends or family members can hang up in support of troops. (Marni McEntee / S&S)

Olga Barton, whose son Seaman Apprentice Joseph Barton is aboard the Harry S. Truman, wears a blue star pin made by Ramstein High School students supporting deployed service members.

Olga Barton, whose son Seaman Apprentice Joseph Barton is aboard the Harry S. Truman, wears a blue star pin made by Ramstein High School students supporting deployed service members. (Marni McEntee / S&S)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — Ramstein High School students have found a visible way to show how the war in Iraq and other military deployments affect their lives.

They’ve started a mini-factory to make blue star buttons and banners that anyone can wear or hang on their classroom door to show support for deployed servicemembers.

Only two days into the project, headed by photo and graphics instructor Tom Goode, the school hallways Wednesday were adorned with a veritable constellation.

“I thought it would be cool to show the whole student body, including those kids who don’t know anyone who is deployed,” how many people know someone who is deployed, said Shannon Erickson, 15, a sophomore. Erickson’s father, Lt. Col. Loren Erickson, is in the 30th Medical Brigade, based in Heidelberg.

“When you see so many stars in the hallway, it really shows how many people are affected,” she said. “It’s nice to see that you aren’t the only one who knows someone deployed.”

The students are taking a page from a tradition started in World War I, when the blue star flag hung in windows of those with family members serving in the Great War. According to one account, the Congressional Record then stated: “The world should know of those who give so much for liberty.”

The tradition of hanging the banners, also known as service flags, continued in World War II and, sporadically, in later conflicts.

About 150 of Ramstein’s 950 students have picked up stars so far, Goode said. Roughly 20 of the school’s 90 faculty members have spouses or children deployed and are wearing stars as well. Some have buttons with two stars.

Math teacher Diane Schnellhammer, whose son, Staff Sgt. Markus Schnellhammer, is a stealth-fighter mechanic deployed to South Korea, said the stars have also helped spur classroom discussion about military service and the current war with Iraq.

Schnellhammer wears a star on her lapel and has a half-dozen stars on her classroom door.

“It makes me feel like I’m doing something to support our troops,” Schnellhammer said.

On Wednesday, several students in Goode’s classroom were cutting out the paper stars and stamping out buttons.

Among them was Leasa Medina, 16, who wore a button for a deployed friend. Medina, a junior, is an Air Force ROTC cadet.

“I’m proud of what I’m doing and if I could I’d be out there, too,” she said.

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