Christmas is FOR the young. Memorial Day is ABOUT the young.
Yesterday was Memorial Day 2013.
It is the day we “take time” to remember our military’s finest – those men and women who gave up their lives and dreams while protecting our freedom.
In my adult years, I’ve always been grateful for the selfless actions represented by Memorial Day. The appreciation I have for all who served or currently serve in our Armed Forces is something I try to keep in my heart all of the other days of the year.
You feel the same way, I know. I’m not alone.
But on this Memorial Day 2013 – I saw the sacrifice of our fallen heroes in a new light, a light that also shed a warm glow toward what we do in our schools.
While the focus of this day should always be on those who gave their all, it’s not wrong to take note of those – the living – who extended their thanks and gratitude.
Like our military, these folks also make me proud.
While the crowds of people offering their “thanks and gratitude” on Memorial Day cut across every generation, many of the most active participants are students in our community schools or recent grads who are now serving.
They are band members, baton twirlers, and flag carriers. They are Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Little Leaguers, and the young members of local clubs and organizations.
The older ones (by just 2-6 years mostly) are soldiers, trained and ready for for whatever comes their way.
Sure, the barbecues, ball games, graduation open houses, and the “friends and family” get-to-togethers took place and concluded the day – but our students, our military’s newest recruits, and the youngest of our school families did much to get Memorial Day started in the right way and add to its significance.
I’d like to think that old folks like me standing around or sitting in a Memorial Day crowd contribute a certain measure of maturity, traditional patriotism, and grizzled perspective… but it’s actually our young men and women through the contribution of their clear-eyed vitality and energy that demonstrate why our hope for the future is real.
The young men and women we all saw yesterday in some manner inspire us to remember that it was – and is – the young men and women (not those with maturity and grizzled perspective) who are frequently called to make the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
Too often I forget the fact that the largest number of people who die in battle are young, and not all that different from our graduates who will soon receive their diplomas.
It’s the blood, sweat, and tears of our young people – fueled by all the love and support we can give them – that ultimately shape our future. The fight for liberty AND the day-by-day commitment to a good education are similar because of this.
Both place our young people in the very center of our shared values and beliefs; with the costs high, the potential unknown, and without any guarantees.
Franklin D. Roosevelt said this on a Memorial Day more than 60 years ago:
“In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved.”
Substitute the word “education” for freedom and Roosevelt’s words still ring true.
This is what dawned on me this Memorial Day. I was reminded that the battlefield sacrifices made throughout of the years were made by young people.
What a privilege it should be for all of us to try and honor their memory by serving their “peers” who are still in our schools. I never thought of these young people (our kids really) as the possible recipients of our admiration and gratitude in future Memorial Day ceremonies before.
But this is the pool where our next generation of heroes will come from. And knowing this, it causes me to want to serve them better – even if it only means attending just one more concert, car wash, or student art exhibit.
Tom Page, SCN