I know it’s a little late, but I didn’t want this day of remembrance to pass without acknowledging it.
I teach Social Studies so my love of history has been well documented through elementary, middle school, high school, college, and pretty much every aspect of my life in between. So for a day like Memorial Day, I am deeply humbled by all that I know about wars and the sacrifices men and women have made throughout history.
I come from a long line of military men and women. On my mother’s side, every war that America has ever fought has had a member of my family in it. The Revolutionary War to even the war with Iraq, my family has stood proud. On my dad’s side, pretty much from the time they got to America (although much later than my mom’s side), they have had military men.
I don’t get to hear many stories about the days of war and military service, but I do feel a sense of pride and love for my country even more, knowing that I am related to these men.
My personal favorite thing is knowing that my great-grandfather fought in World War II. He was in Patton’s army, marching through Italy. When he was done in Italy, he was sent back to England for the largest land, air, and sea invasion ever.
June 6, 1944. Across the English Channel, 175,000 men, rode through nervous shakes, seasickness, fear, and valor, to invade Normandy, France. My great-grandpa was one of them. He arrived with his fellow soldiers onto the worst of the 5 beaches, Omaha. The crazy thing is, he survived. There are no words to describe how amazing this is for me. I have watched real footage of the invasion, read countless books and stories about what it looked like, seen pictures, and studied these moments more than I ever realized I would, and he lived through it all. I never got to meet my great-grandpa. He died in his sleep a few years after the war, no doubt from some internal injury sustained during the war.
Yesterday, I tried to teach this to my students. Teach them about World War II and D-Day itself. Society has done an injustice to our children, my friends.
They were not impressed, humbled, compassionate, nothing.
As we were watching the beginning of Saving Private Ryan for the part that shows D-Day, I’m choking back sobs and tears knowing how they sacrificed so much for our freedom and for peace. My students are talking about how they don’t understand why they would do this, why they would fight, how cool guns look when shot underwater, etc.
My heart just hurt for their lack of respect. Even though it’s just a movie, it’s a depiction of what was lost at Normandy. What the cost of war actually is. What the cost of freedom and democracy is.
How can we change what society has already taught them? How can we implore them anymore to see how precious our freedoms are?
We need to stand and protect them from what society says and show them how much has been lost for their freedom, rights, and lives.
It cannot be left to the social studies teachers to teach them this. I wish I could say that we are so awesome at our jobs, that all students have a sense of pride and love for their country after a lesson. However, that is a dream that will never be based in reality.
It has to come dually from teachers and parents alike. Help us show them, teach them, guide them. Help them know that the military is more than just a path after high school. It is an honor. A gift to America or any country they live in.
After all, we do live in the land of the free because of the brave.