Larry Tracy gave 40 years of his life serving our country. When the Army veteran died in late September, he had no surviving family to plan, let alone attend his funeral.

A veterans group organized a funeral for the 78-year-old, and the students in sixth, seventh and eighth grade at Ascension School in Kettering, Ohio helped make it a memorable service.

“Larry Tracy was having his funeral Mass here at Ascension Church,” said Susan Digiorgio, Ascension School principal. “He had no immediate family, was elderly and was a veteran who served in the Vietnam War, Desert Storm and National Guard. It was likely going to be a quiet funeral with some of his veteran comrades attending.”

Digiorgio knew they could do better. More than 100 students lined up, raising American flags, paying tribute to a man who protected their freedoms.

“Our junior high students formed a processional line on either side of the parking lot area the hearse and mourners would pass through. The students and teachers held the American flag high or placed their hands on their hearts out of respect for the veterans,” Digiorgio said. “It was truly moving.”

Digiorgio said it created a touching scene, as students mixed with the veterans, showed pride in their country and honored Tracy. She hopes her students can reflect on this moment and internalize how much Tracy sacrificed.

“You hear a lot in the news right now. Sometimes negative things about our country. This is a positive thing. This is what we do as Americans and this is what we want our kids to do. We want them to know this is country to be proud of. This is a man to celebrate his life and service to our country,” said DiGiorgio.

“I am so proud of our junior high students who showed their respect for a man they never knew and carried out their faith quietly,” the principal said.