Friday, November 11, 2005
Veteran's Day here in our small town is more than just a passing thought. It is a day dedicated to remembrance, patriotism, gratitude, thankfulness. Outside of our classroom hangs a paper chain flag, symbols of the branches of our military services, and a roll of all the veteran's known within our families and community.
All classroom activities stop and the town stands still as we congregate in the gymnasium to pay tribute to the men and women who have served in the armed forces during both peace and war time. We stand and sing, "God Bless America", "Battle Hymn of the Republic", and "America the Beautiful", grateful that we are still allowed to express our love for both country and God. And it continues: The Pledge of Allegiance; "The Star Spangled Banner"; poems read by high school students; voices of young children raised high with pride as they sing and sign about the great country we live in; name after name upon a screen as haunting music fills the room; proud men and women seated at the front, rising slowly, but speaking with conviction about the days they spent aboard ships, in fox holes, airborne, far away from home and family, yet...following their heart.
The handful of veterans who still live among us are honored with a lunch at the school and are seated amidst colorful red, white and blue posters made by the art class as stories are shared and memories go back. Then as morning flows into afternoon, class by class we board school buses that take us out to the beautiful little cemetery on the eastern edge of town.
A stone memorial rests beneath a brilliant, billowing U.S. flag and the warm weather belies the November date. Students from the American History class are scattered throughout the cemetery, portraying veterans who rest there. Their clothing depicts the era of long ago; a naval uniform worn by the great granddaughter of an officer of World War II, Army greens with stripes and ties, and even a lone soldier and his horse from the Civil War. They speak of love of country, love of home, love of family. Pictures of young faces stare up from brown photographs; faces of sacrifice, faces of freedom.
It was humbling, out there on the waving prairie, to stand amongst true heroes from our past. And though it was a day lost in the classroom, it was truly a day of education. Hopefully it was a moment these children will take with them and remember.
May each of us treat our world - and each other - in such a way that we are worthy of these extraordinary people's selfless sacrifice and may we never forget. For like Jesus himself, these brave soldiers did indeed give their own lives.......so that we could live.