by Carolyn Kaberline
Special to The Leaven
TOPEKA — It’s 2 p.m. when the first drops of rain begin to fall in central Topeka. Eighth-grader Andrew Kirmer quickly asks his language arts teacher if he can be excused.
“It’s beginning to rain, and I need to take the flag down,” he quickly explains. Upon receiving a nod of approval, he leaves the room and heads to the flag pole just outside the west doors of Mater Dei School.
For the past four years, the 14-year-old Kirmer has been putting up the flag each morning before the Pledge of Allegiance at about 7:50 a.m. and taking it down and folding it properly when the school day is done. However, his recent graduation has meant a handing off of the task.
“A couple of sixth-graders have asked me about it,” he said.
Kirmer himself took over the job from his older brother Nick, who performed the flag raising and lowering while he was a student at Mater Dei.
“When I was taking over, Nick would put it up, and I’d take it down,” Kirmer said. Before Nick, their oldest brother Richard performed the same duty.
“Richard is the one I always wanted to be like,” he said.
Kirmer performed this task because patriotism is part of being a Scout, which he’s been since the first grade.
But also because he’s a Kirmer.
“I just took over,” he said. “[The administration] was just pleased to see someone take over the job.”
“I’m carrying on a tradition,” he said, and admits everyone kind of looks to him to do this.
“People depend on you doing it each day,” he said. “When I walk out with it, some students stay around to help, while others disappear. When I’m not here, no one seems to know what to do.”
For him, the best part of the job is “when the sun’s up and there’s a blue sky, and pulling the flag up is an easy task.”
“When I first started and I was little, I had to put my foot on the pole to cinch it, but now I don’t have to,” he explained. “It was also a bit hard when the school got a new and larger flag, but it’s much easier now.”
While Kirmer is obviously following in his older brothers’ footsteps, the Kirmer family’s service to the parish goes beyond just raising and lowering the flag each day.
“My dad and I and others from the parish helped build two classrooms in the school’s basement a couple of summers ago,” he said.
But handling the flag is special to Kirmer.
“Putting up the flag is just part of me,” he said. “I can feel the patriotism.”