They Fought for our Freedom

I got an inside look at American patriotism when I went to a Veteran’s Day program at my kids’ elementary school last week. The school had invited family members who served in the armed forces to attend and be honored and other parents (like me) to join in.

The most moving part of the program consisted of all the 5th graders singing a medley of armed forces songs. At different points signs were held up (“Marines,” “Army,” etc.) and veterans stood up to be applauded. There were World War II veterans in wheelchairs, veterans of the Vietnam War, and veterans of the first gulf war. Maybe also veterans back from the Iraq war too, but I don’t know.

There was something touching about the juxtaposition of children’s voices and the men (and a few women) slowly rising to their feet. These people had put their lives on the line for their country, and I’m all for honoring them. I clapped enthusiastically and yes, got teary eyed like everyone else.

I bet you can hear it coming…I’m about to spoil this post with a “but”. Sorry, can’t help it. All the 5th grades had written poems and some of them were read out loud. The winning poems had certain common themes, one being the idea that veterans are people who fight for our freedom.

It would be hard to make a case that the veterans of the last three wars (Iraq, the gulf war, Vietnam) were fighting for our freedom. World War II veterans really did, I think. You might be able to force the Vietnam war into that mold if you tried hard enough. But the first gulf war and the current war in Iraq?

While I sat there clapping wildly and tearing up, I just couldn’t stop my mind from turning over a few thoughts about patriotic gatherings in other places. What would I hear if I were at an assembly at an Iranian school, for example? Probably something Americans would dismiss as propaganda. The problem is that once you get into the propaganda business, it’s hard to say your propaganda is OK, and someone else’s has gone too far.

I went home from the gathering wondering what would be a better way of explaining what veterans do. The message needs to be suitable for kids age 5 to 11. I think it ought to honor these men and women. But (I submit) it needs to be true. How about, simply--the veterans risked their lives for our country? My radical thought for today: we really do need to teach kids the truth. Simplified so it’s age appropriate, but still, the truth.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Vietnam has nothing to do with USA nor did World War two.

Germany didn't even want to fight Britain. the US was going to enter the war to back up the UK before Pearl Harbor even happened.

Germany in now way ever wanted to " take over" the world. Thats simple comic book stuff.