Zach Brockmeier bounced in place at the edge of the Carson Middle School basketball court.
"OK, guys," he told three other eighth-grade boys, "Let's do this."
Along with Jacob Branco, Grant Brewer and Victor Faverro, he had practiced three periods a day for the past three days for this - folding, unfolding and refolding an American flag nearly as tall as them.
A gym-full of students and adults at the school's 10th annual Veterans Day Commemoration would watch each fold they made as speakers called out the meaning of each crease.
The boys had shot upright at their cue Friday - the beginning of National Guard officer's speech - and rushed over to their spot to prepare.
Grant led them through practice runs: opening the flag up wide like a bed sheet, folding it over, creasing it 12 times as Zach and Victor supported it, and finally, Grant shoving the loose edges into the back of the thick triangle Jacob held.
Zach said he and Victor called themselves the "tables" because they held up the flag. He said it wasn't that difficult to do because he'd learned about it as a Boy Scout.
But he'd never folded the flag before with veterans watching.
A minute before they walked out on to the court, Zach closed his eyes, stuck out his lips, and took a deep breath.
The boys were nervous, said Ananda Campbell, one of the teachers who organized the ceremony, because they had practiced hard for this.
"They knew if they messed up, the veterans would know."
She helped teach a special patriotic unit, too, which included lessons about subjects like what the symbols on the dollar bill mean. Some students also talked with veterans about military service and made displays with the soldiers stories and photos to put outside the school on the fence, where they remained throughout the holiday weekend.
As the audience clapped at the end the presentation, right before the flag folding, the boys, dressed in button-down shirts, ties and dress pants, jogged out to the middle of the basketball court holding up the flag.
The boys moved through their presentation as the speakers read the meaning of each of the 12 folds: life, belief in eternal life, remembering soldiers who have died, humanity's weaker nature, tribute to America, the Pledge of Allegiance, tribute to the armed forces, mothers, womanhood, fathers, the Hebrew God and the Christian God.
The four boys faced the crowd when the speakers were done. Jacob pressed the flag against his chest like he was holding a kitten.
After the ceremony, Zach said he thought they did great, even though he was nervous.
"Whenever I'd look up, everyone was taking pictures and everyone was staring at us," he said.
Folding the flag is different now, he said, because he knows what it means.
• Contact reporter Dave Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1212.