Friday, May 24, 2013

A Quick Talk about Memorial Day

Today was the perfect opportunity for me to spend a few minutes to interject how Memorial Day first came to happen during the aftermath of the American Civil War. Although the fighting had officially come to an end, it was a time when our country was still emotionally torn from over four years of fighting. General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, called for a day when soldiers of both North and South would be remembered for giving their lives for the freedom and liberty of past, present and future generations.

This weekend is the first in a series of summer holidays and everyone was looking forward to a long weekend. My students were anxious for the long weekend, but as is the case with many of our patriotic days, I fear the true meaning of Memorial Day is diluted in a pool of commercialized selling sprees. Lost is the historical significance and values we've achieved as believers of democratic ideals. When people question why this new generation of learners doesn't have a grasp of real history, I believe we have only ourselves to blame.

I provided them with pictures of Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC and a stirring 3-minute video of Amazing Grace by the Armed Forces Bagpipes. 
It was laced with images of fallen soldiers and ways which they are remembered by comrades and everyday citizens. I ended with a simple request that my students take a few minutes before the end of the day to visit the school's in-house memorial to recent graduates who gave their lives in battle. One of these soldiers was the brother of a current classmate of theirs and few were aware of this association. I asked that they also spend time on Monday in reflection of the true meaning of Memorial Day, recognizing the efforts of soldiers who have defended our country. As each of my five classes departed for the day, there was a somber sense of "I got your message" amid them all. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

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