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Veteran’s Day – A Day for Teaching, Giving Thanks, and Remembering

November 10, 2007

When my daughter came home from school a week ago, there was a special assignment in her homework folder. The assignment for her and her 1st Grade classmates? To complete a flag for each member of your family that has served, or is currently serving, in a branch of the United States military so that the children could better understand the meaning of Veteran’s Day. Attached to the instruction page was a page with eight flags that the children could color appropriately and label with each family members name, their relation to the child, and their respective branch of service.

My heart just sank because, you see, my daughter has learning and speech dysfunctions that border the Autism spectrum. Once again I found myself not quite sure how to explain to her the importance of what we will be doing (this is not the first school project like this we have enjoyed doing). Military service to our nation can be traced back in both my husband’s family and my family to the American Revolution. It is one of the things that is most valued and revered in our home – along with God, family, and the American Flag – the flag that proudly flies in our front yard all year long; the flag that is flying at half-mast in my daughter’s 1st birthday pictures, 13 days after September 11th; the flag that is flying directly behind me in my wedding pictures (we didn’t have a flagpole yet so it was displayed from a post on the front deck). When the photographer suggested that we move the flag, I immediately said without hesitation, “Absolutely not. That’s our family. What better place for it than in my wedding pictures?”

I started making a list of those relatives that had served during the 20th and 21st century ……… and I realized that I needed more flags. Eight was not going to be enough. And so, on November 6th, with an extra sheet of flags in hand, we made our “family flags” for school:

Great Grandpa Edward Maiman - Navy

Great Grandpa Alvin Huffman - Navy

Grandpa Robert Huffman - Army

Grandpa Thomas Fleming - Air Force

Uncle Gordon Winer - Coast Guard & Navy

Cousin Robin Kahle - Marines

2nd Cousin Patrick Fleming - Army

Great Uncle Curt Huffman - Army

Step-Cousin-In-Law Michael Suing - Coast Guard (Active)

Great Uncle John Fleming - Navy

Great Uncle Edwin C. Gage III - Navy

Great-Great Uncle Thomas Manning - Marines

Great-Great Uncle James Fleming - Army

Great-Great Uncle Charles Franklin - Army

Great Step-Grandma Fran’s Father - Army

The families were also invited to write stories about each person too, but she wouldn’t have been able to understand or talk about what those stories mean -– Battle of Normandy, Okinawa, Calvary, Decorated Hero, Wounded in Action, and that some of these relatives felt so strongly about what they had promised to their country that they went on to become policemen, a profession that has prevailed in our family for the last four generations. Or, that our list doesn’t end with just our immediate relatives – especially our “Active” list, which currently holds “extended” family and friends stationed in Iraq, Great Britain, Germany, Afghanistan, and some “undeclared” locations in the Middle East on first, second, and third tours.

But our list doesn’t end there either. Our list holds every soldier that serves our country, their families, and their friends, for they are a part of our family too even though we do not know them. We pray that they will all come home safe. We pray that they will all know just how grateful we are. We pray that they know we are praying for them – always. We pray for our country, that we remain united, that we continue to stand tall, and that someday the whole world will have what we have in America – the right to freedom, justice, and the pursuit of happiness.

My daughter has seen me visibly cry, and even tremble, at parades – something that no matter how hard I try, I cannot control (it even happens during the singing of the Star Spangled Banner for public events). I thought about what I tell her when she asks me why I am crying. “See those people marching in the uniforms with the flags? They are soldiers. American Soldiers. They made a promise that they would fight and die for you and me - just like Jesus did - so that we could be free. We need to always be forever grateful for their sacrifices, and we need to always let them know that we are grateful.” I have always wondered, are my words enough to make her understand? Will she someday be able to understand what a soldiers sacrifices mean, enough to make her soul fill with pride for where she lives and immense gratitude for what has been sacrificed by those who never knew her? I can only hope and pray.

Perhaps she is finally beginning that journey of understanding. When I picked her up from school on Halloween (a rare occurrence, as she rides the bus to and from daycare because I also work full-time outside of the home), she stopped me dead in my tracks in front of the school flagpole because we were holding hands and she stopped. She said, “Mama, you put hand on heart like me.” I turned around and there she was, with all of her American pride shining from her face, hand over her heart, looking straight up at the flag on that pole. The American Flag. And then she began to recite something that I thought I would never hear come out of her mouth, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” With tears streaming down my face and my hand over my heart, I bent over and kissed my beautiful daughter on the head and said, “That was wonderful, pumpkin. Mama’s so proud of you!” She looked at me and said, “Don’t cry Mama, let’s do again.” So, we said it again. Does she really understand the full depth of what she is saying? I don’t know. Hopefully someday she will. At least for now she can say it (Thank you, God, for another accomplishment) and she knows that it makes her Mama smile – even if there are tears streaming down my face.

To every veteran and active soldier, for all that you have freely given and sacrificed our family says, “Thank You. Thank you for protecting us. Thank you for fighting for others in this world so that they may have what we have. May God’s Blessings be with you and yours, and may He keep you safe, always. We will always be praying for you and for your families.”

 

 By - Anne Margaret (Fleming) Huffman

 Daughter of an American Soldier





 

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