Where the inside of my mind leaks onto the screen.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

It is the Soldier...

When I try to encourage my students to deliver a heart-felt performance, I often say something to the effect of, "If you have one of those moms that cries all the time, we want to make sure we make her cry."

I'm not that Mom.  At least, not usually.  But today, I left school with a headache from the combination of permanent marker and trying not to cry.

We had an assembly for Veteran's Day, and - I'll be brutally honest here - I was just wishing I had the day off.  I didn't have to teach my classes because they were going to the assembly instead.  But I still had to be there, because my classes were singing in the assembly.  I wasn't even excited for that, because we already performed these songs for the parents two weeks ago, and I've already moved on to teaching Christmas songs.

So you can imagine my surprise when, as the 5th through 9th grade classes at Navigator Pointe Academy together with about 30 invited veterans stood to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, I choked on my words.  Teared up.  And it didn't stop there.  I had to mouth half the words to the Star Spangled Banner as I was up there leading it; I knew if I sang, my voice would give way to tears.  

The 6th and 7th grade choirs (not my classes) sang "Blades of Grass and Pure White Stone."  
"Blades of grass and pure white stone shelter those who've come and gone. Just below the em'rald sod are boys who've reached the arms of God. Buried here with dignity, endless rows for all to see. Freedom's seeds in sorrow sown, 'neath blades of grass and pure white stones."

Some of their notes were terrible.  But the feeling they put behind it was amazing.  Again with the almost-tears.

What surprised me the most, though, was the solemnity with which the students who had been selected to share Veteran's Day essays approached their task.  One ninth grade student delivered her speech with so much feeling that I hung on every word.  Included in her essay was the following quote.  Read it slowly (as she did) and imagine reading it in the presence of men and women who fought in wars ranging from WWII to the present war.  Imagine a room full of 11 to 14 year olds, silent.  Respectful.  Solemn.

"It is the soldier, not the reporter, 
Who has given us freedom of the press. 
It is the soldier, not the poet, 
Who has given us freedom of speech. 
It is the soldier, not the organizer, 
Who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.
It is the soldier, 
Who salutes the flag, 
Who serves beneath the flag, 
And whose coffin is draped by the flag, 
Who allows the protestor to burn the flag." 
- Father Dennis Edward O'Brian, USMC

I've never felt the stirrings of patriotism as poignantly as I did today, and I cannot deny that the spirit was present today in the multi-purpose room of a public school.  I am lucky to have been a part of the assembly today, and I am proud of the students who so nobly honored their relative veterans.

I'm already looking forward to next year's assembly.

[And I violated my personal one-post-per-day rule because I felt so strongly about this.  Read on for my earlier post!]


Loretta said...

That is beautiful. I too have the start of tears just reading this blog. Thank you. I did not even realize it was Veterans Day till later in the shameful.