Veterans Day Story

Somebody Had To Do It
Written by Lynn Johnston, Spring, TX 11/99

Just five insignificant words: Somebody had to do it. We use these words in various ways, such as when someone tells they take tour groups to Paris or sample Godiva chocolates for a living. “It’s a job,” they say, “and somebody’s got to do it!” I remember my husband saying those words recently, after volunteering to lick the praline pot at a cooking school in New Orleans. “Somebody’s got to do it,” he announced, cracking a huge smile.

Today those five words were used in a totally different way. The same words were somber, thought provoking, and full of a world of meaning and truth. To understand their significance, I must begin the story a year ago, when members of Oak Creek Elementary staff started talking about how to celebrate the last Veteran’s Day of the present millennium. It needed to be special, as it was acknowledged that children today do not relate to the significance of this national day as much as the baby boomers and earlier generations did. There was much discussion generated concerning how our school could help make Veteran’s Day understood and appreciated by our younger population. Staff members mentioned a meaningful ceremony she had attended at a school in a neighboring district, where children made posters of family veterans, and displayed them them on stakes in front of the school. The idea with a few embellishments, seemed to be the perfect answer!

From this spark grew a full-fledged event, including a patriotic ceremony involving four generations of Americans standing to honor our flag, our country, and our veterans. Our principal gave an inspiring address to thanks to our veterans, several of which were guests from our neighborhood. As veterans of World War II raised the flag, our school’s Millennium Choir sang the National Anthem. With hands on our hearts, we all recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Our students are so used to repeating the pledge to the Texas flag every morning, that many of them automatically recited that, too. (God Bless Texas!) During these displays of our patriotism, I observed several adults wiping tears from their eyes, and I also saw a flicker of understanding on the solemn faces of many of our youth. The taps, the gunfire-what exactly did they mean? Some didn’t have a clue, but I think that almost every one realized that this was something important-something to do with pride, honor and respect for our country.

Although the ceremony was special, the best part of the celebration was the posters-all 308 of them, plus some uncounted one that neighbors and friends of the school had added on their own. Displayed on wooden stakes in front of our school were rows and rows of posters. Side by side stood pictures, names, ranks and other information composed by young and old alike. Slick computer generated posters made by World War II neighborhood vets had been driven in the ground beside those printed by the little hands of children in our early childhood class. The posters were incredibly diverse, as posters of Civil War veterans proudly stood by those dads and uncles of our students, as well as sons of staff members, who served in the Gulf War. It was even learned from a poster that our own staff member Kay Easton served in the Army before becoming a teacher. Some posters proudly proclaimed grandpas and uncles as heroes. Others had heart shaped stickers on the pictures, or all around the pictures, making a scalloped frame.

As I stood viewing the posters from the sidelines, I was struck by the equality of the soldiers represented, much like the feeling one gets from the uniformity of a military cemetery. Standing with my friend, the school secretary, and her husband Mike, I remarked that the children viewing the posters with such interest really didn’t have an appreciation of the significance and sacrifice represented. They hadn’t had the experiences yet to understand that many sons, husbands, dads, etc…, had suffered and died far away from home, so that we can all live in freedom. Standing in his own neighborhood, watching those delightfully safe children of the same ages as his own grandchildren, Mike, a veteran himself, replied, “You’re right,” and then he said those five little words, “but somebody had to do it!”

As I reflected on his words, I had a thought, which was actually more like prayer, that these children, in fact that all the children, will be able to grow and learn in an environment of safety. My prayer is that they will experience what life is supposed to be about-the wonders, disappointments and realities, without one more child ever having to experience firsthand the reality of why, like Mike said, “…somebody had to do it.”

Postscript: My husband served in the Navy during the Vietnam War. As a CTO in Adak, AL during 1969-70, he got to know many Marines, As a fourth grade teacher at the Adak On-Base School, I taught the children of Marines. Thank you, Marines, for bravely fighting our enemies in the past and for continuing to fight to preserve our freedom in the present and in the future. We all owe you a tremendous debt of gratitude.

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