- The Washington Times - Monday, May 31, 2004

One of the most popular souvenirs among the World War II veterans and their families visiting the District this weekend were the tiny, handmade boutonnieres from Chicago’s Project Rosebuds.

Project Rosebuds, a vocational training program for disabled students, sent out the kits for 50,000 boutonnieres, featuring a little American flag wrapped with three fingernail-size fabric roses, to 500 participating schools nationwide, where they were assembled by students to be handed out to veterans attending the National World War II Memorial ceremonies.

to veterans attending the National World War II Memorial ceremonies.

Among the 500 schools participating in the national arts-and-crafts/history project were five from Maryland: St. Mary’s High School in Annapolis, Kennard Elementary School in Centreville, Bennett Middle School in Salisbury, Elkton Middle School in Elkton and George Fox Middle School in Glen Burnie.

“It gave me an opportunity to say ‘Thank you,’ and learn more about history,” said Carnell Brown, a 14-year-old Chicago student.

Carnell was one of 12 volunteers who passed out the pins Saturday on the Mall and Sunday at Arlington National Cemetery.

Volunteer Claire Browne, 18, said the highlight was meeting the veterans. “I felt a lot of pride handing them out,” the Chicago student said yesterday.

One veteran wept when Miss Brown handed him a pin and thanked him for his service.

A White House chef Saturday accepted several bags of pins and gave tins of White House chocolates to the younger volunteers.

“Every Navy person, veteran and [dedication] volunteer” wanted a pin, said project director Lawrence Baran, who organized the distribution at the request of memorial officials.

Mr. Baran, with the help of 100 disabled students, directs the Rosebuds program in the south Chicago suburb of Homewood.

The students assemble the kits, while Mr. Baran writes curriculum guides for participating schools. A small group of volunteers ships the pins to schools nationwide.

The pins have been a hit on military bases ever since Mr. Baran, a former special-education teacher, started the program in 1988.

Students sent 500,000 to troops during the 1991 Persian Gulf war and 200,000 to New York City and Pentagon rescue workers after the September 11 attacks. Last year, students taped roses to packages of Bazooka chewing gum and sent 250,000 of the “Gum & Roses” packages to soldiers in Iraq.

Mr. Baran said he started the program to honor his late father, Pearl Harbor veteran Charles M. Baran, after praying to the Virgin Mary.

“I’m a man who loves God and country,” he said. “It’s as simple as that.”

On the small cards that accompanied the pins this weekend is an illustration of a cross with the faint inscription, “Charles M. Baran, U.S. Navy.”

That inscription, Mr. Baran said, “is my only perk.”

Since 1990, the Rosebuds program has been partially funded by Congress. It received $50,000 from Congress last year and gets smaller donations from veterans.

“It’s nice because the kids have to learn about patriotism before they can make them,” said Sister Maureen Mulkerrin, a teacher in the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago. “It gives them dignity and honors the veterans.”

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