Thursday, November 11, 2010

How to quiet an auditorium of high school students

How do you quiet an auditorium packed with high school students?

you invite veterans who hold their heads as high as their aged bodies allow
they walk proudly down the aisle with the slightly younger ones
every kid immediately stands--no adult had to prompt them
and remain standing for the "the national anthem"
sung by fellow students in the choir
their voices join together for the "pledge of allegiance"

even the 'bad boys' (principal's name for them-with affection)sit respectfully still
as photos flit across a screen
so many words---tributes to those who have fought for this country
the band plays "america the beautiful" and the two drummers tap gently

more pictures flit across the screen
one of the senors spent hours compiling these pictures
another senior put them together
twelve students from government class planned the entire program

 dressed up they stand proudly
talk strongly---and before our eyes are transformed
into the awesome adult citizens they will be

it never fails---a photo of a german prison camp comes on the screen
and the tears begin--memories of my personal POW---my dad ---
flood my mind and overwhelm my heart---how i miss him--
the man who so well fit the title of what is "the greatest generation"---
at least in my mind

i chide myself for not bringing kleenex as i wipe my eyes
the tears were there waiting before that picture showed up
it happens every year
i can't stand present in such a ceremony and not cry
i'm feeling a little foolish
then the phys ed teacher leans over and whispers
 "i can never get through one of these dry-eyed"
she is one tough woman--born and bred here
considers herself a 'redneck' and "proud of it"
she and i disagree on many subjects
yet today we are sisters

the vet is introduced
he has earned his right to talk to us
but he gives no spiel
instead, as a former educator, he gives us a history lesson

a history lesson in a veteran's day assembly?

yes, a lesson about how vets were perceived after each war
he begins with armistice day after WWI,
touches on the last of the great wars ---WWII
the last one in which the entire country was emersed in support
then Korea
how folks acted like the returning vets had been on a sabatical
or a vacation, so uninvolved was the nation with it

he almost loses it when he gets to the vietnam war
and how america became so divisive that vets were scorned
his voice rises in anger as he speaks of the young vet putting his feet
on american soil for the first time in a california airport
"a boy with head shaven and a robe who didn't know squat from life
walked up and spit on this young vet!
 this happened all across our country!
they didn't ask to go there---their country sent them and they obeyed---
to come back and be called baby killers--and some have never cast that name off"
anyone who might have dozed off,  startles awake at this man's angst
my tears slide down once more

then he reaches the subject of our two wars today--in iraq and afghanistan
his voice begins to get an edge again
as he notes the devisiveness in america once again
he talks about the politicians who say "i support the troops, but not the war"
he deliberately lets his grammar slip
"well they ain't got any idea of what it's like
they ain't been there!
once that soldier's boots hit that sand full of scorpions
HE IS THE WAR---there is no separation!"
absolute silence in that auditorium

his voice warms to praise as he speaks of these kids' generation
"they get it"
they have the respect that many adults lack
and that gives hope for those men and women who will return
those who still are serving and are disheartened by any negativity--
he tells the kids he thinks this generation is different
 because of the involvement of the national guard and the multiple deployments
just about every kid sitting before him has or has had a brother, sister, mother, father,
aunt, uncle, or friend serving in these two wars
some didn't or won't return
 many who do, are not the same ones who left
these kids know first hand the price
with that knowledge comes respect

he has hope and respect for this generation

he finishes and returns to the row of veterans---they rise and salute the flag
then they turn and salute the students
as taps are played by two outstanding student musicians

 that's how to quiet an auditorium of high school students

This post is in loving memory of "Big Roy" and all those like him.  He was captured in the Battle of the Bulge and spent 4 months in a German prison camp.  See my dad--a POW and the man who traveled

This scripture was in the display case in the front hallway: "Greater  love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."  John 15:13

This is part of imperfect prose on thursdays

disclaimer: as an english teacher, i can get bogged down with grammer, so i follow an example of a fellow blogger and write with no caps and little punctuation--if i didn't with a post like this, it would never get published


  1. Nice, Beth. I was born on Veteran's Day. Always was rather proud of that... not that I had any choice in the matter ; )

  2. I couldn't even read this without the tears starting. I am so impressed that your school had such a wonderful tribute to veterans.
    My Dad landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day. We are so blessed to still have him with us.
    My husband served in Vietnam and I certainly appreciate all that that amazing veteran said.
    Thank you so much for sharing this. It made my day.

  3. I commend your school for inviting veterans to speak, to share their stories. My gratitude to Big Roy for his service. I come from a long line of veterans as well, and my son is pursuing enlistment in the army--something I type with a mixture of fear and pride. Thank you for honoring the service of these brave men.

  4. and now I need a Kleenix ... proud of those students as well as the veterans

  5. this is beautiful.

    i am very grateful for the ones that have laid down their life to fight against the wrongs that are being done, and for the protection of so many.
    this fighting for a good and noble purpose.

    i think that have been sent to fight, and have fought the good fight, no matter the reason for being sent, deserves to be treated with respect.

    what i hate, is to even think that the people that we call our government would ever call for the people that are the military to fight for anything less then a noble cause. I do not want them to risk their life for the greed and selfishness of a few who are not at all our friends.

  6. whew the gave me chills just reading it...know it was powerful...thank you to all that have served...and the families that supported them...

  7. I love reading about tributes to veterans in our schools! It's so encouraging to know that patriotism is still alive! We, too, attended a celebration for veterans today at my grandson's school - one of the most meaningful I've ever attended! Hats off to teachers who spend much time and effort to make these programs happen! And hats off to your dad!

  8. i can't stand present in such a ceremony and not cry...

    we can't read this and not want to cry, dear beth. how you captured their hearts, the hearts of these vets who gave up everything... how i wish i truly understood the sacrifice they made. but you helped me to understand more this evening. thank you, my dear beth. xo

  9. Hi Beth, This almost made me cry.... Thanks be to God for all of those in the Armed Forces (past and present) who fought for our country and our freedom... Glad the young people got to hear their stories...

    God Bless them ALL.

  10. Ahhhhhhh . . . this is so beautiful. I wish my children could hear more of this type of thing.

    Thank you for sharing. It's my first time joining Imperfect Prose and YOU!

  11. This made me weep. Kudos to your school for such an amazing program.

  12. When our dear ones [the younger generations]come to a clear understanding of what their older g-parents and g-g-parents... have faced in various warfare situations ... and what it's meant for their freedom, that is good. It also helps them understand what the present young-ish folks are going through.

    Thanks so much for your sharing. Lovely!


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