SHS alumnus bestows American flag

October 16, 2009 — by Anna Shen and Karen Yang

Nine years ago, alumnus Daniel Morse graduated from Saratoga High School as an outstanding student, athlete and class contributor. During the year of the school’s 50th anniversary, Morse presented SHS with a gift during an unexpected visit to assistant principal Karen Hyde on Oct. 2—an American flag he attached to his Blackhawk helicopter and flew during an air assault mission in Baghdad, Iraq.

“When you are doing this kind of job, you start to reflect on what’s important in your life,” said Hyde, who has kept in touch with Morse since his graduation in 2000. “I think this place was important to him and he realized the roots go deep. That’s why he came back, that’s why he did what he did, and that’s why he gave it to us.”

Morse attended University of California, Davis, where he worked hard to transfer to the renowned military academy West Point. He eventually ended up in combat.
Even so, Morse never forgot about SHS and all the memories he has accumulated throughout the years. During his 15-month deployment in Iraq, Morse bought this American flag–with the intention of giving it to SHS–attached it to his Blackhawk and flew his helicopter in an air assault mission he named Operation Saratoga in honor of the high school.

“My experience at SHS is one that I will always remember,” said Morse. “The relationships I developed in the classroom, as well as on the athletic fields, have resulted in friendships that I believe will last a lifetime.”

While a student at SHS, Morse was not only an outstanding football player, but was also an active participant in spirit days and Homecoming.
“[Morse] was one of those role models that every school should have,” said Hyde. “He was an amazing kid in many ways—extraordinarily positive, football player but involved in many things, spirit-orientated, getting kids involved, working on Homecoming. Dan did it all.”

Morse’s flag will be flown at all Saratoga Falcon home football games from now on and will remain in the office at all other times.

“Dan was so touched that we were going to fly it over the football field,” said Hyde. “[The flag] will probably look like a postage stamp because it’s so small, but who cares. It means more than anything we’ve ever done. It doesn’t matter what side you’re on; Dan has done something remarkable.”

The flag was first presented to the Saratoga community during the home football game against Milpitas High School Oct. 9. Many Saratoga alumni were present at that game where the school’s 50th year anniversary was celebrated. One alumnus was so touched by Morse’s gift that she called the school saying how grateful she was for this remarkable present given during the school’s 50th year.

“The fact that it was our 50th anniversary and that we flew it at that event, people were back from 1959 and the ’60s,” said Hyde. “I think there’s more than the roots; there’s a heart in this place that goes beyond anything that happens in a classroom.”

To health teacher Amy Obenour, who has maintained a friendship with Morse over the years, Morse’s flag represents survival, the pride he has in his career and the love he has for the school, teachers and staff.

“The flag is very nostalgic for me, because we have a lot of kids who have gone over to Iraq to serve our country through the conflict,” said Obenour. “I’m proud of them for serving, thankful to them for providing defense and happy that they all have come home. The flag, to me, means pride and that Dan just really cared about our school and thought about our school.”

Since his graduation, Morse has kept in touch with Hyde and Obenour by visiting them every time he is in Saratoga, whether he is in town for only a few days or even just a couple of hours.

“[Dan] kept in contact when he was in West Point; he came back during all of his vacations to check in,” said Hyde. “[Saratoga] was an important place to him; it held many positive memories. Dan conceptualizes why [Saratoga] is special with the gift of the flag.”

Morse hopes that this flag will be a symbol of “pride for the school and a reminder to students that they are the future of a great nation in which men and women have paid the ultimate sacrifice to defend.”