I am spitting mad. I tried to swallow it down, and a lot of times that works. But this particular situation has not abated in a week or more, so I figure, like a bad song stuck in my head, if I share it it will dissipate.
My niece Kayli, who is ten years old (today, as a matter of fact), was given a school assignment to write a letter to someone who served in the military and helped to keep our country safe. She wrote her letter to her granddad, my father.
Dad definitely qualifies as a subject of the exercise. He served in the US Navy during several conflicts, as an engineman on a minesweeper. I remember during the Vietnam conflict the war statistics were given every evening on the news. On the network we watched, they used a graphic of a silhouette of a soldier with the casualty numbers superimposed over it. I held my breath every time I saw it, as though the newscaster might shout out my dad's name. Every day I worried about my dad, and at bedtime Mom would sit next to my bed while I prayed aloud for him to be blessed and kept safe. That was all that we on the homefront could do, we thought. Carry on. Put on a brave face. Hope. Be prepared. I can only imagine what it was like for my mother, because she must not show me how frightened she was.
We gave, and my father gave. The worst thing was balancing the fear with the patriotism. That's when I first developed my talent for just not thinking about things. Certain things I couldn't control or resolve. I have a meter in my stomach that tells me when to stop thinking, and then I just put the thought in my little mental room with the other dark things and come back to it later. No one can teach you those things. You just develop methods to survive.
Growing up a military brat, dragged from sea to shining sea, made me who I am. I would not change a minute of it except that fear. And that fear just goes along with the military life. I was and I am proud of my father and his service, and I stand taller when I hear someone thank the veterans who have served and died.
Now, back to Kayli's Memorial Day assignment. She wrote a nice letter to Dad thanking him for his service, but the teacher found it insufficient. Why?
BECAUSE MY FATHER IS DEAD. And he didn't die in battle; he died many years later in his own bedroom in the middle of a spring night.
This kind of stupid bitch is allowed to teach children? Molding young minds? I know you don't get the pick of the litter in a town of 2,600 people, but WTF. Does she think Memorial Day (we called it Decoration Day) is for school holidays and picnics and beer? Was she not even required to learn enough American history that she would be ahead of her students in that department?
I told my sister to go directly to the school and defend my tearful niece's choice, but she is not that sort of person. I'm five hours away and the teachers there already hate me. When my son was there, I was at the school once a month agitating for intellectual standards, or simple manners, or just plain logic. To my niece, it seemed as though her granddad wasn't good enough. She refused to choose another veteran to write about. She preferred to fail the assignment.
Well, my sweet little Shuggie, you didn't fail at all. Take it from me. The world is so much bigger and wider than that little town. Go to the cemetery today and you will see the flags on Granddad's grave. That means he's a hero.
Daddy, thank you and all of the other veterans of all the wars and conflicts for your contributions to the country and the world. I think about you every day, but today I thank you. I love you. You are a hero to me.
Happy birthday, Kayli. I love you too.