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Memorial Day.

I'm a day late for a Memorial Day post, I know. It's a hard holiday to get your head around, I think - or at least that's what some posts seemed to say. Maybe it's just hard for the under 10 crowd. And me.

Let me be clear - I have the utmost respect for the men and women who serve in the Armed Forces. To be willing to give your life for your country? That's a remarkable commitment, and one that should certainly be respected and honored. I just worry that so many of our young people who join the military do so because....well, because they don't have a lot of other options.

I have a bunch of kids who want to join the Army or the Marines because they think it's cool to be a soldier, or because they like the idea of firing guns, or because it's a family tradition, or because they want the money for their education. I'm not sure they think about what they'd actually be fighting for and if they want to potentially give their lives for something they might not actually believe in. I'm not sure we want them to think about what they might have to give their lives for; as Jose points out, we don't spend too much time on it these days.

I want my kids to question the inequities in our society, I want them to push for answers and justice, I want them to see both the wonderful things about America and all our dirty laundry and decide for themselves that this is still how they want to fight for their country, if it is. I don't want them to do it because they're pushed into it by someone else or because they need the money or because they think it'll be like a video game.

On Thursday, Sweet Child o' Mine came by to help me clean and organize my room. We were talking about his future; although he really wants to play for the NFL (of course), he said he'd been thinking about the military as an option. I asked why, and he said it seemed cool and the money for college was good; he said he didn't know much else but his friend's brother had liked it. I said that a lot of great things can come out of military careers and that I'd help him look into it further if he wanted. He said okay. A minute later, he spoke again, his voice softer. "But what if I, like....die?"

That's the rub of it. I'm glad we honor the sacrifices our soldiers have made. I just want to be sure that they're fully aware of what they're committing to when they make that commitment, and that they believe in the choice they make. They deserve that.

(Image by The US Army)

2 comments:

Rachel said...

My brother wanted to be a GIJoe ever since I could remember. I also remember threatening him that if he went to war and died, I wouldn't go to his funeral. I was very against him being in the army, because I just assumed if you went to war, you died. When I found out BOTH my grandfathers had been in wars and survived, it boggled my mind. Boggled. (btw, he eventually became an Intelligence Specialist in the Navy, where he still serves. Little Bro is in the Coast Guard)

That said, I think the ones who "Get it" are the ones who stay. They see the dirty laundry, and they want to fix it. They want to make a difference, and so they make a lifelong career out of it. Oh, there's some who just don't know what else to do...but those are the ones with no drive who eventually run out of promotions and get passed over (i.e. forcibly retired). Plus, that's what boot camp/officer training is for -- driving home those ideals and principles at an early stage.

It's horrible for any family to lose its soldier(s), regardless of whether the service member was willfully thinking of honoring his country or not. And honestly, if that's not something the family has talked about and discussed before the person entered the service, shame on them. While I see your point, I just wonder who you mean by "we", when you say "we want them to think about..."? In my opinion, the responsibility starts at home. Am I NOT going to talk to a kid about it? No, if a student approaches me with that discussion, I will gladly listen and carefully advise. But I will also say, "Go home and talk to Mom/Dad about this."

teachin' said...

I think by we, I mean we as a society - it really worries me how much social studies (and science and electives, though those are less closely related to this particular issue) is getting pushed out of the curriculum, at least in the lower achieving schools like mine. I'm afraid that without being taught concepts of civics, economics, and history, kids won't know how to be critical consumers of what politicians and the media are telling them (because sometimes it's true, and sometimes it isn't), and then won't really know how to make their own decisions.

I just want them to go into whatever they go into with their eyes wide open - but that's true for any industry they might think of joining, whether business, medicine, law, education, customer service or anything else. I want them to have the critical thinking skills and the broad understanding of society to help them decide what's right for them personally. Which maybe is really what I was trying to get at - whatever they do, they need to think about all the pros and cons of their choice and decide if it aligns with their beliefs. And I completely agree that it's a conversation a family should have, whatever direction a kid is going.

BTW, I like what you said about the career aspect: "I think the ones who "Get it" are the ones who stay. They see the dirty laundry, and they want to fix it. They want to make a difference, and so they make a lifelong career out of it. Oh, there's some who just don't know what else to do...but those are the ones with no drive who eventually run out of promotions and get passed over (i.e. forcibly retired)." Probably it's just my personal bias coming through, but that really sounds to me like a good description of teachers too! :) Except maybe for the forcibly retired part.

"I'm a dreamer but I ain't the only one Got problems but we love to have fun" -K'naan, "Dreamer"

I teach eighth grade Language Arts at an urban school. My kids kick ass and will change the world. I want everyone to know.
 
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