At last week’s Committee of 100, Jeff Beall of the Phelps-Clifton Springs Faculty Association and I got talking about the connections between teaching and the armed services.
An Army veteran, he plans to spend Memorial Day attending local celebrations in Clifton Springs and Phelps. He’s proud that two of his 8th grade students will recite the Gettysburg Address, an event generously sponsored and supported by the local VFW and American Legion. He also plans to text his nieces and nephews currently serving and call his mother, an Army nurse who served in the Philippines in World War 11.
As a social studies teacher, he sees many connections between teaching and the military. He notes: “Veterans still serve our country in a number of ways, whether in the classroom, on the police beat, or in the firehouse. We should always be mindful that the lessons they have learned in uniform continue to teach future generations about the promise and potential of this great nation.”
When classroom discussions turn to veterans and history, he said “students like to talk about their family members who have served. It is very clear that these reflections bring pride to students as they share their family members contribution to our great nation.”
When I think about Memorial Day, I too think of family, but I also think of cemeteries. That’s because for the nine years I was in the Girl Scouts, the whole holiday weekend was all about the Willow River Cemetery in Hudson, Wisconsin. On Saturday and Sunday our troop joined the Boy Scouts cleaning out the previous year’s plants from urns, raking leaves, (sometimes shoveling the last of the snow from shaded areas to the sun) cleaning off bronze stars and eagles, and pushing small wooden flags into holders or the ground. Only next to certain graves, of course, as the flags are only for those who died while on duty.
On Memorial Day Monday, I had to wear my uniform and be part of the color guard. Contrary to its name, Willow River Cemetery was nowhere near water. In fact it sat on top of the Ninth Street hill, overlooking the small city. From 1967 to 1976, I never missed a ceremony. Did I say small city? With barely 6,000 residents then, there were few people who did not know each other. So even as a Brownie I noticed that I saw my bus drivers, school custodians and teachers in the parade or in seats of honor during the ceremony.
Memorial Day parades have been in the news in the Capitol Region as the Saratoga community considered canceling until it got an influx of funds and volunteers. I haven’t been to a Memorial Day parade in Hudson since 1981. I just checked and they still have them. Here’s a link to the weekly newspaper columnist tribute to the years of parades.
Whatever you do this weekend, let me join Jeff Beall in wishing a “Happy Memorial Day 2012 to the veterans, and to the families who have sacrificed and supported them.”