they come. some dressed in full regalia. brass buttons and pressed pants. shoes shining and medals hanging. heads high and smiles wide.
they come. some dressed in army fatigues. heavy boots and serious faces. stripes on sleeves. scars on bodies. caps pulled low and shoulders back.
they come. some dressed in plaid shirts and cardigan sweaters and comfortable shoes. coffee cups in wrinkled hands. white haired ladies at their sides.
they come on strong legs and they come pushed in wheel chairs. they come with hats in hands and stories in mind. they come with blurry eyes and clear memories. they come sharply, they come slowly. they come eagerly, and some come curiously. they come as women and they come as men. they come young and they come quite old. hundreds of veterans pour into the doors of our school auditorium on this special november day. the small children greet them with flags waving and songs singing. students line the entrance ways, ushering in these real life heroes. we are so glad they have come.
the bugle blows to the colors and flags enter. it feels as if the final guests have arrived. all eyes on them. all hearts fluttering. these are our colors. this is our country. and we all swell in the moment. i can see it. the physical shift of young and old. whatever the petty business of that morning was, is gone. we are paying honor to something bigger than our own small selves. we are in the presence of real heroes. true bravery. absolute sacrifice. we are hushed without prompting. we are awed without explanation.
from my perch, i watch school children sing their hearts out, i hear students read their essays and i see grown men cry. we listen to words about service and sacrifice, about honor and gratitude, about freedom and the fight. for less than two hours we pay special tribute. we are reminded to say thanks. the young color guard retires the flags and taps is played and everyone, even the smallest child is quiet. still. serious. this is not an everyday event. rarely is a room this large, this silent. and all i can think is, aren't we the lucky ones? lucky to attend a program such as this. lucky to partner with a school such as this. lucky to be surrounded by men and women such as these. lucky to live in a country such as this. but i know all the while, it has absolutely nothing to do with luck. our country wasn't founded on luck, but on God. our freedom isn't possible because of luck, but because of men and women willing to protect it.
our school has been hosting a veterans day program and celebration for the past 17 years. there is nothing like it. come and see next year for yourself. i grew up not really sure what this veterans day was all about. all i knew is, it had something to do with voting and was always trying to steal the thunder of my birthday. when you are a kid, things which occur in your birthday week stick. i remember being young and somewhat disgruntled i was required to share my special week with the voters and the veterans. that is funny for me to think back on, but also kind of sad that i didn't get it like these kids do today.
i wasn't so happy to share the attention back then, but today, i couldn't be more honored to share my week. i couldn't be more thankful to have my kids wrapped up each year in something like this. i couldn't be more thankful for even the weekends spent decorating posters or writing essays in between busy life. my third grader wrote an essay this year and began it with one of the stories from last year's keynote speaker. he had remembered. yes, the story had something to do with ships sinking and sharks circling, but my 8 year old boy had remembered. this boy who cannot remember to make his bed or change his socks remembered the story of a hero. i was thrilled. i've had the privilege of directing this program for the past several years or so, and i can't think of something i'd rather be doing come the second week of november. i am humbled and honored to be even a small part of it.
there's this one group that comes every year. the sons of the revolution. i know it because they draw attention in their old fashioned dress. i know it because they sit right behind me each year. they are always early. they are always sharp. they are handsome. they are proud. a few years ago, when the program ended and the auditorium cleared, one of these men dressed in blue and tan coat and ruffled shirt stayed. i was closing my notes and tidying up the tech area when i noticed him standing and waiting for me. he told me his name was bob and that he had never felt more honored than today. he had tears in his eyes. i talked with bob a few minutes more and as i turned to leave, he hesitantly said, "can i ask you a favor?" "of course," i replied. "would you take a picture of me with that winning poster? it has touched my heart and i'd like a picture of it to take home." this 80-something-year-old man was asking to be photographed with a 4th grader's poster. my heart was touched. i grabbed the camera quickly and found the poster still backstage. we lined up bob and the poster and the camera clicked. it captured an old man with a big smile. it captured a young poster with a clear message. it captured pride. bob and i hugged and he thanked me for the picture. before leaving, he wrote down his email address and i told him i would send it. and i did. i also copied that picture for myself. it is tucked into my director's notebook, paper clipped to the programs from each year. bob has no idea, but those tears in his eyes, his love of that poster and that request for a picture inspired me. i was so glad he came.
|last year's veterans day... another blessing of our freedom.|