May 30, 2011

Thoughts On Memorial Day

This Memorial Day I have a lot on my mind. At our end-of-year picnic, a parent told me that her son--my former student and the husband of one of my most recent graduates--was almost killed in action. Richard is in the National Guard, currently serving in Afghanistan. A flash bomb exploded close to him and he was lucky to survive. I hugged Linda, his mother, after she told me the news. The whole time I held her I was thinking of how I would feel if I had come so close to losing my own son.

I spend this Memorial Day thankful that I am not mourning the death of a young man who used to be my student.

I spend this Memorial Day worrying about him and about his friend, Brandon, another former student who is serving in Afghanistan.
All Rights Reserved, 2011 Bobby Duncan
I also spend this Memorial Day reflecting on other students who have all, thankfully, served in the Middle East and returned home safely-- in body, at least. They are, however, not the same in their minds or spirits. Their souls are forever changed by war. Because of them, and because of my two grandfathers who fought in WWII, I know that it is not just a physical sacrifice that our soldiers make; it is a spiritual sacrifice as well. Soldiers returning from war are not the same people they were before. Knowing this, I have always had a hard time supporting the recruiting efforts of our local military offices. They seem to target my students--those at-risk of dropping out, those who don't fit into a traditional system, those who suffer from poverty.

I just read an article by the Reverend Romal J. Tune posted here on the Huffington Post and it got me thinking about my own internal conflict regarding military recruiting practices. If you have a moment to read it, I think it is worth your while.

Just like every situation in life, each individual must decide what is best for themselves and then make their choices accordingly. As a teacher, I may not like worrying about my students who join the military (and I worry so much!) But for so many kids, joining the military is the only way for them to travel the world, learn new skills, and further their education. It is not my job to limit the available information about their options; it is my job to help them look at all of the available choices. It is my job to help them learn to make decisions for themselves about what is best for them. Once they make their decisions, it is my job to support them and assist them...and to hug their moms while we wait for them to come home.


  1. I've never been a big fan of on-campus recruiting. When I was in high-school, I somehow got on an Army call list. The same recruiter kept calling over-and-over until finally I had to be rude. It became a joke when the phone rang at dinner-time. I thank God for the men and women who serve our country, who protect our freedoms. At the same time, I question some of our country's decisions/intentions and how they put our young men and women at risk. For kids who have no other options, minimal family support, and don't understand the financial aid process, military life looks glamorous, it's an easy solution to a lot of problems. I think it's right for some, definitely not for all.

  2. And thank you for presenting your students with all their options. My older brother is retired Navy and now works as a government contractor. The military was 100% the right thing for him.

  3. Your experience with the persistent recruiter is still commonplace today. I discovered that recruiters earn pretty hefty cash bonuses for signing kids on and so they work hard to get those bonuses.

    I'm glad that your brother found success in the Navy! One of my former students is been in the Navy for over 10 years now and still loves it. He posts pictures of his apartment in Italy on Facebook and calls me every so often at school--he seems very happy with his choice. But I agree with you--I question our country's decisions/intentions and I will always worry about my students who pursue military life (it's almost like they are my own children the way I worry!)


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