POST 111 FELL ON VETERAN'S DAY. That's kind of crazy. I didn't even realize it until I went to write it. I was explaining to the Offspring, who were unimpressed with historical knowledge, that World War I ended on 11/11 at 11:11 a.m. Kind of crazy that my post matches up.
My Grandfather fought in World War II, but never talked about it. We read in a book that his division did some really amazing things. The only story he ever told us about was waking up in the middle of a surgery while a soldier. He looked down and said, "Those are my guts" and then they put him back under. He was not a fan of hospitals after that.
I've taught many students who are soldiers now. I have a small pile of letters written to me from boot camp. Some of my favorites are from a student who never listened to me, tried to break every rule, and put in the least amount of work. I told him before he joined the Marines, "You are about to use the weakest muscle you possess on a daily basis: your ability to submit to authority." He laughed at this and then wrote me a long letter from boot camp that went something like this: I should've listened to you. You were trying to teach me. I never should've said those things to you, or cheated on that test. You were right. You were right about everything." Boot camp does that to kids. His letter was probably the most extreme version of this, but they usually fall along the same lines. The stress of breaking people down to build them up into soldiers, seems to push them toward reflecting on the ways they treated their freshman English teacher.
I remember when the recruiters would come to our high school and pitch joining. They talked about what boot camp was like and what a life in the sevice was like. I was a young teacher then, without any children of my own, and remember overhearing two older teachers talking after the recruiter had finished.
Teacher One: I kind of want to join up.
Teacher Two: What?
Teacher One: Think about it. No cooking, no house to clean, 3 meals a day. . .
Teacher Two: Yes! And the only person I have to clean up after is me. I'm really good at hospital corners. I mean, you can bounce a quarter off my bed. It's kind of wasted on my family.
eacher One: And I could get into really good shape. You have to work out. They won't let you skip a day.
At the time, I found the conversation hilarious, but later in life, when I had two kids under two years of age -- I understood it.
I am really proud of all of my students who are now serving. I have students in the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force and Marines. It comforts me greatly to know that I am defended by the same kids who once read Romeo and Juliet with me. Although, knowing that they are across the world fighting a war that seems to have no end also fills me with fear. I do not like to think of them in harm's way, but of course, danger is all around us, and I have lost enough students to know that nothing is promised to us - not even tomorrow.
Sometimes, I think that the wives/husbands and moms and dads of soldiers are the real super heroes - especially the Moms who drop their 17/18 year olds off. I can't imagine the strength that takes. And the parents who stay behind with the kids, day after day managing things alone until their spouse gets back. That takes so much strength of character.
Even as we all struggle to find a way to define ourselves as Americans, let us all take a moment to recognize the sacrifices that were made so that we could be in this beautiful mess.
P.S. I dedicate each and every typo in my posts to the wise and amazing Heather, and to The Husband, who has said, "That comma is in the wrong spot."