Veterans’ Day in the 2nd Grade

(Photo: property Ann-Marie Murrell)

Last June 21 marked 50 years since the day I landed in Ubon, Thailand and began my 12 months helping to fight the war in Vietnam. A visit to Saigon began just about 50 years ago today when I was sent there over the Thanksgiving and Christmas Holidays in 1968. I returned to Thailand and finished my tour and my enlisted service in the Air Force the following June.

Since that time, I seldom talked about my time in SE Asia because I never felt that my service was comparable to the many thousands that faced death and mayhem daily while I spent my time working on the aircraft and equipment from the safety of the base. I felt a bit guilty over enlisting for four years in the Air Force to avoid two years eating mud in the trenches.

More recently, I have joined some Facebook Groups populated by Vietnam veterans who, like me, served to keep the planes flying or flew those same planes in combat. In discussing various subject on the forum, I mentioned my feelings about my service and I was promptly called to task for thinking my job was less important that others. After all, I was told, without a working radio, the mission was automatically aborted and that could have cost more lives in the long run. I was told this by several veterans and have come to accept that what they suggest may well be true.

With that mindset in the back of my thoughts, I drove (mostly in the dark) for about two hours to attend the 2nd Grade Assembly marking Veterans’ Day at Central Elementary School in St. Albans, WV, this morning. My great grandson is in the second grade there and he specifically asked that I come to the Assembly, so he could honor my service. Needless to say, there’s no saying no to that even if it means getting up at five in the morning to get there on time.

The program included songs, poetry, an honor guard for the Pledge of Allegiance and a portion of the program asked veterans present to stand for recognition as each branch of the military was described by a student. It was far more well-planned that you might expect, and my hat is off in humble admiration for the efforts of the teachers and staff that made such a program possible.

At the end of the program veterans went to the classrooms and students read letters that they had written to veterans thanking them for their service. Each student then provided pictures and stories about the veterans in their lives back as far as great, great grandparents.

In my life, I have never experienced such a varied and earnest display of appreciation from a group of second grade students. The letters made it clear that they understood just why they were honoring their family’s veterans as well as the others in attendance.

All this brings me to the most important aspect of this story. I write political commentary because I feel strongly about what happens to my country. This is not, in large part, for my own benefit because I don’t have that many years left in my life, but I look at the children and youth in my life, and particularly in this case, our great grandson, and wonder what sort of country he and his generation will inherit from us. If you were to judge by today and the past two years, you might be genuinely alarmed. But there are still great teachers who do not mix their politics with their instruction and continue to instill a love of country in their students. A program such as this one would not be possible if this were not true.

So, today’s events have given me renewed faith in the future of our country as long as we do our part now, so they have a country to revere and respect when they reach adulthood. Our obligation to teach them a love of God and an understanding of just what makes the final song those kids sang with all their hearts this morning really means. It was Proud To Be An American by Lee Greenwood. There was not a dry eye in the house…including mine. God Bless America and thank you to all our veterans for your service. Every one of you is important!

Tom Stark

Tom Stark’s career began with Air Force service, including a year in Thailand and Vietnam, and progressed through a variety of manufacturing and service positions to Manager of Security, Safety, and Transportation for the Orange County (FL) Convention Center. He graduated from Barry University in 1994 and soon after embarked on a second career building custom furniture as an entrepreneur for the last 20 years. He unsuccessfully ran as a Tea Party candidate in the 2010 Congressional race (WV-01). Tom currently writes and advocates for smaller more prudent and less intrusive government, strengthening families and protecting life while building free market principles that make America stronger. He is now 70, retired, and residing with his wife in Weston, West Virginia.

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