Tuesday, November 17, 2009

In war, there are no unwounded soldiers. ~José Narosky


On Veterans’ Day I had the privilege of joining the Girl Scouts of Nassau County Chorus at the Veterans Hospital in Northport, NY.  The girls performed in Building 52, the Community Services building, which is also a long-term care building for individuals needing skilled care. Many in the audience were World War II and Korean War vets.  As always, the girls did a great job and received a positive response from the audience. Our Chorus closed their performance with “I’m proud to be an American.” Everyone there was proud to be with them …
 
As much as the girls gave yesterday, I think that they received even more. They had learned the “theme songs” for each of our military services – “Anchors Aweigh,” “When the Caissons Go Rolling Along,” as well as the songs for the Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.  Each of these songs were both history lessons and vocabulary exercise.  Where are Montezuma and Tripoli?  What is a ‘caisson?’  And who knew the Coast Guard had their own song. Just coming to understand what the words of these songs mean was enriching for the girls. And then seeing how much these patriotic numbers signify to our veterans, to the families of the vets and to those in the audience was another eye-opener. After the concert I overheard several parents of the girls encouraging the girls to speak with the veterans and to say “thank you.”  There were some very sweet moments in that hall…
 
My father was a World War II veteran who fought in North Africa, on to Italy, had a heart attack and was sent back to the States to recuperate, and then shipped off to fight in the Philippines.  His years of military service were part of his life story, and mine.  He died of heart disease when I was six years-old.  I have the flag that covered his casket and remember the twenty-one gun salute at his graveside.
 
In June of 2008 I traveled to Normandy, France.  I first went to the International Peace Museum in Caen, and then on to Normandy to see Omaha Beach, site of the World War II D-Day invasion that is credited with turning that war to the Allies favor. I had heard so much about that battle and that war. I have a cousin who died in the invasion and I went to visit his grave in the American Cemetery.  I learned that there is also a German Cemetery nearby.  I was surprised and a bit disappointed in myself that I had not known that in advance. It set me to thinking about both the horrors and the fragilities of war. And all those thousands of boys and men, as well as a few women, had parents, sweethearts, families and communities waiting at home for them, as did the American GIs. One of the quotes that I saw go by on Veterans’ Day referred to the fact that we know more about making war than we do about making peace…
 
As Girl Scouts, we promise to honor God and Country.  It is so important that we teach our girls about those who have gone before – who have served their country in war, many sacrificing their lives, each of them changed from their experience. We must honor the past, and continue to give our respect and support for those who are currently serving in the military. As Girl Scouts of Nassau County go boldly forward, building girls of courage, confidence and character, we recognize the value of a strong defense and military service. And we have the opportunity to study peace, to learn new strategies for building communities of unity, to exercise tolerance and to practice respect for diversity so that we can make the world a better place.  And maybe one day we will “study war no more …”  And on my next trip to Normandy I will be sure to visit all the cemeteries.

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