Monday, November 9, 2009

Veteran's Day Convocation

Last week, I wrote about the upcoming Stonegate Veteran's Day Convocation. Thank you to all who wrote back with wonderful suggestions on how to tackle teaching 'freedom to first-graders'.

Today was the big day ...

I arrived at around 8:30 am, in order to set up. The day didn't start out well with me being unable to connect to my server, which held both my notes and the presentation itself. After cursing, stomping around and (finally) pulling an old monitor/keyboard/mouse out of storage to connect directly to my server, I was finally able get the files I needed (I figured if I was having these difficulties at home, it may pay to get to the event early and tackle any automation issues. Fortunately, there were none).

My presentation focused on Freedom, what it means to be a veteran, pride and patriotism. I tried to use as many of my own photos as I could, meanwhile trying to be cognizant of the fact that I didn't want to try explain war, fighting or dying in the defense of our country. So, I combed through my 3,000+ photos from Iraq and found at least 10 that didn't have a weapon of any sort in them. I focused on what it means to be free, who veterans are and how they help other countries gain their own freedom.

As the children filed in the gym at around 9:20, it dawned on me that the room wasn't just filling with children, it was filling with potential. It reminded me of a book my battalion commander lent me in Germany; The Tao of Pooh. This book uses A.A. Milne's characters to explain Taoism (pronounced Dowism). One such tenet of Taoism is the Uncarved Block. As Taoists explain, the Uncarved Block has the utmost value and is the 'ultimate art form', since the uncarved block can become anything. That's exactly what these young K-4 children are; like coiled springs, ready to release their potential energy. Each day, teachers and parents apply a little more pressure to these springs increasing their kinetic energy in the future.

The convocation started with an amazing student (my guess is 7th or 8th grade) who played 'Scotland Brave' on the bagpipe. The cub scouts of Pack 358 posted the colors and saluted as a woman sang the Star-Spangled Banner. There was 3rd and 4th grade poetry and the Stonegate Choralaires sang a couple of songs. Roughly 75 veterans were at the event, representing all of the branches of service. Each stood as their respective service song was played.

For the adults, I took a moment in my speech to remember three soldiers that I knew in the Army. Capt. George Wood was a friend from my Armor Captains Career Course at Fort Knox, Ky. He lived down the street from me and I would always see him, his wife and his children when I was out walking Jake. We both went to Fort Hood, Texas; George reporting to the 4th Infantry Division, me to the 1st Cavalry Division. He died when his tank drove over an improvised explosive device. I also mentioned Specialist Ramsey, whom I wrote about here. Lastly, I recognized Capt. Chris Seifert; my counterpart in one of the other battalions in Baumholder, Germany. You may remember his death, as he was killed in Kuwait when a soldier threw a grenade in his tent, killing him and another solider, in 2003.

It was my distinct honor to talk with these children this morning. They were well-behaved and attentive. I hope I was able to relate a little bit of what soldiers do and why they are some important to this country. Thanks to Ms. Cavolick for inviting me.


kmcavolick said...

Thank you so much for inspiring all of us this morning! Your message was so very age-appropriate and meaningful, and left each of us with a greater sense of appreciation for those who have and are currently serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. We appreciate all that you have devoted to our country and it's people!

Indiana Lori said...

Ah, The Tao of Pooh. My favorite book in college. Awesome book.

Congrats on your speech! I'm sure the children will forever remember how important our soldiers are to our country. Thank you for keeping me and my baby girls so safe.

In Your Debt,


Anonymous said...

Your spring analogy is interesting, I've always thought of a new born as having the most potential, but as time goes on the little human makes more and more choice guiding their potential. Until finally one day the spring is finally extended and life is over.