Veterans credited for clout in getting students’ Flag bill passed


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Viera High School JROTC Cadet Marcelino Allen-George, retired Maj. Gen. John Cleland, retired Lt. Col. Tim Thomas and retired Master Sgt. Mike Sonnenschein prepare to receive the governor Sept. 21. Photo by Linda Wiggins

Gov. Rick Scott appeared in Brevard Sept. 21 to sign the All American Flag Act bill, with organizers crediting veterans and seniors for getting the student-led legislation approved. The law requires government entities across the state to purchase their U.S. flags in America from American-made parts.

“This didn’t happen without our veterans,” bill signing ceremony co-organizer Matt Susin told attendees of the event held at Viera High School, where students lobbied for the legislation during the past two school years that was put in motion starting in 2013. 

The bill fell short of approval last year and Susin, former VHS teacher and faculty sponsor of the project, partnered with VHS senior Army JROTC instructor retired Lt. Col. Tim Thomas. Thomas drummed up support from veterans and seniors to bolster the students’ approach to legislators.

Thomas spoke at the 2014 Senior Life Veterans Salute held at the King Center, which was sponsored by the Military Officers Association of America Cape Canaveral Chapter, and asked for help. Members accepted the charge and began calling on legislators and organizing other veterans groups in support of the bill.

MOAACC leader retired Maj. Gen. John Cleland joined Thomas on the stage Sept. 21 that featured as much brass on the stage as in the audience, also filled with local and state legislators, all members of the Brevard County School Board, community leaders, students and parents, and a full contingent of television and print media. 

Thomas will again be a guest speaker at the Veterans Salute, this year at 2:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6 at the Senior Life Boomer Bash & Senior Expo at Exploration Tower at Port Canaveral, with a day of activities from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. This time, it will be to give thanks.

 “We are beyond thrilled at the accomplishments of our students,” Thomas said. “They literally could not have done it without the partnership of our veterans and seniors, generations working together.”