I asked the kids what they saw:
"broken stuff" (the chunks of dirt and rocks at the base)
"a flag on a pole"
I told them the were ALMOST right. They weren't Army men. They guessed "NAVY!". I said.. "VERY close!!" They said "MARINES!" I high-fived the little buggers. I told them there were 5 Marines and 1 Sailor in the picture. I then asked them if they had ever seen that picture before. They said no. I asked the parents if they knew what it was... I got one reply. "Well, I *think* I've seen it before, but I can't place it"
Seriously. How could any American adult NOT recognize the USMC War Memorial??? I figured most of the parents would at least know it by it's common name, the Iwo Jima Memorial, but I was wrong. It's one of the most famous statues in our country, right up there with Lady Liberty standing in New York's harbor. How could they not know?!!??? Maybe I'm just more in touch with all-things-military than the general citizen, I don't know.
So. I told them. I told them how young those soldiers were. I told them not all of the men in that picture made it home alive- that half of them died right there on that island within days of the photo being taken. I told them how symbolic the flag raising was- we claimed that island back from our enemies with that flag. I reminded them that right now, we have thousands of men and women just like those six fighting for us in Iraq and Afghanistan, with my cousin and best friend's son being two of the thousands. I reminded them of their promise as a Scout to "do my duty to God and my country, to help other people", and how everyone who has ever served in the military has done just that.
Those boys now know what that picture represents. They understand a little bit more about the sacrifices endured by our military... and they're thankful for it.
We spent the rest of the meeting making Christmas ornaments. I told them they could make as many as they wanted, and if they wanted to make any for the soldiers, I would be happy to send them to Iraq on their behalf. Everyone in the room made ornaments for the soldiers. I left it up to them- they were not forced to "make one for yourself, and one for the soldiers". But yet they all made that decision on their own. I am SO proud of those boys.
My Scouts will know what it truly means to show duty to God, Country and Others. They'll get another taste of it in a couple of weeks when we participate in the Wreaths Across America wreath laying ceremony at the Dayton National Cemetery.
I will not be a part of raising a generation of children who do not know what it truly means to be an American or the things we have to be thankful for as a result of the sacrifices of our military.
Be thankful. Happy Thanksgiving.