A few weeks ago I was sitting on the couch, cutting out at least 50 stars from blue construction paper. A week later, little slips of paper came home asking for my second grader to fill out the names, branches, and conflicts the veterans in their family had served in. The teacher sent home 5 slips. We needed at least twice as much!
Service is in our blood, and my children, ages 5 and 7, couldn’t be more proud of that. “We’re military kids!” they proudly proclaim whenever they feel it is appropriate. “And our favorite veteran is our Dad!”
Each year, the elementary school on our Army post has a fantastic Veterans Day program. The second graders hold an evening event honoring all the veterans. They sing lots of songs, have some speaking parts, and everyone walks away proud of their children, their service, and their special veteran.
This year my son is in second grade.
I may be more excited than he is. After all, I did agree to cut out those blue construction paper stars to help decorate the Wall of Honor outside the second grade classrooms. And I cut out and glued 20 construction paper camouflage shirts that will contain a thank you letter to a veteran. I also volunteered to tie-dye red, white, and blue shirts for the performance.
As we walked home from school that afternoon, my son’s friend announced that “The Colonel” was coming to their evening performance. We asked which Colonel, and the said, “The Colonel of the United States Army!” It was absolutely adorable, he didn’t know who this man was, or what his job was, all he knew is that someone important was coming to watch their performance. I wasn’t sure what to expect from these second graders, but I was anxious to see.
And then I arrived at the school.
Wow. Just wow. The cafeteria was packed. So many families, proud parents, and leadership from our installation were in attendance. The school’s sponsor unit posted the colors, and with a quick glance to my left and right I saw parents, soldiers snap to attention, the move so ingrained in them it doesn’t matter where they are or what they are wearing.
The children sang a few songs, recited some poems, including The Military Child’s Creed, which brought a few tears to their parent’s eyes and a huge round of applause at “Welcome Home!” that through them a little off their game.
They then performed a great rendition of the Armed Forces Medley, encouraging all veterans to stand during their service song. It was so touching to see Airmen, a few Sailors, and some Marines stand during their service song, and hear the children sing it loud and proud. And then, the room shifted as the hundred or so Soldiers in attendance got to their feet.
There’s just something about hearing the Army Song, from Soldiers, past and present, from spouses who had memorized the words years ago, from military children who learned the words to make their parents proud. It’s amazing, and moving.
I’m so proud.
The pride I felt swelling in my heart wasn’t just for my veteran, who won’t ever admit how much he appreciates these small things. The pride was for my kids. Who have put up with so much in their short little lives, more than they even know.
They were 3 weeks and 20 months old, respectively the last time their father deployed. They are incredibly lucky to not remember those crazy days where I barely kept it together. They have gone through TDYs here and there, always incredibly grateful to be reunited. They’ve moved twice, made new friends, said goodbye to friends, and are so familiar with Skype it’s scary.
These children spent weeks preparing their show and I felt honored to be there. I felt proud of each and every one of them, the families they come from, and the country they are growing up in.