25 May 2009

Go back to school if you think the only heroes are the ones who are serving now

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.


Tamis said...

Well said Auntie! She was dead on, stupid teacher!

I want to take a second and thank your Dad too. He gave a great gift, a gift that continues to give. Thanks!

Lydia said...

You know... I hardly know what to say. First, thank you. I know your fear. My DH was in the Marines in Gulf War 1 and I understand the love hate obsession with the news and the held breath. I understand the tipping over into beyond frustration for that moron that doesn't even know what Memorial Day is, OR, for God's sake, have the decency and sense to appreciate the world as seen by precious little Kayli. The death of outrage is a huge threat to civilization. So that being said, how refreshing it is to see it from you, my dear.

Thanks for all he and you and your mother gave up. Thank God for men like that and the families that love them.

Thank God for the fun little paperbat.

Evil Twin's Wife said...

That teacher is a moron. If the assignment didn't specify it had to be a living person, then she could chose any veteran she wanted! School politics make me nuts!

Nicola said...

The teacher is so idiotic....et us spit feathers for you while you go and have a cup of tea...(Being English that is the most relaxing thing I can think of, lol)
Nicola x

Cheri Sicard said...

Somebody needs to talk to that teacher, or it's a disservice to all her current and future students. If she would like (and if she would actually read it) I would be happy to send her a copy of my book "The Great American Handbook," it sounds like she really needs it, even more than her students. One of the subjects covered is the history and meaning of Memorial Day.

Sweet Pea said...

Kudos to Kayli! Whatever the "assignment" she wrote with her heart and only a heartless person would make a supid distinction on the guidelines of an assignment. The only thing that should matter is the spirit of the piece and of the writer. Very few kids are even aware of the contributions of another generation so props to her on several fronts. Let's give her a A plus and a big hug.

Thanks to all, past and present who are willing to serve and protect. A salute to my father who served in Korea and earned the Silver Star for being wounded when he stayed behind and gave cover fire, making it possible for the greatly outnumbered men under his command to reach safety. Thanks Dad and thanks to Sugar for being one of "those" Aunts!

SugarCain said...

Thanks for the support, readers. See? It did make me feel better to go on a rant.

Cheri, thanks for the very kind offer, but I feel like the dumbo needs a nicely worded letter from me. Once I cool down I believe I can do it objectively. A teacher of children that age should be careful of feelings and think things through; a childhood incident can stick with some people for a long time. I am asking for the wisdom to approach it in a way that will make a difference. After all, Kayli will be out of her class this week, but there will be other young minds to come.

Jil Nelson said...

Go Kayli! She's lucky she has a wonderful aunt.

DeadpanAlley said...

Damn, can I follow you all over again? Every time I read your blog I just want to say,
"Hey! Angelique! I love your writing and I love your heart and I love your anger and your joy and your history and your color and your Angelique-ness."

So there.

I follow you again, and you can't stop me.


SugarCain said...

Jill: Thank you for the kind words. I hope you'll come back.

Liese: Be careful of following me. I could likely just take you down with me. It's not like I know where I'm going.

sallymandy said...

Hi SugarCain: What a nice blog you have here. I'm glad you're siding with your niece here and can help her deal with the treatment of an insensitive teacher. Really, what a ridiculously short-sighted assignment.

I share many of your thoughts about service people, though I did not grow up in the military. My husband's father was a P.O.W. in Vietnam, and he himself is a veteran who was mobilized with the Air Force for two years. There are so many conflicting feelings that go along with all that. Whatever they are, though, these people deserve our thanks. I believe that. And thank you, too.