I recently attended high school graduation in honor of a close friend's son. Though there were announced electrical issues, the principal assured the crowd that the ceremony would play out in its original scheduled entirety.
As a military spouse of 15 years, I believe the National Anthem is one of the most honorable and important events in any large-scale gathering. It represents our country and the men and women who lived and died to defend it. It appears Williamsburg James City County school officials see it differently.
The Star Spangled Banner was listed to be preformed by the band, but it was removed from the ceremony. After countless deployments, American lives lost, and the overall sacrifices made by our military, the district could have found another area to edit. For some, that song stands for freedom, hope, a reminder of the great nation we live in, and a moment (1 minute, 35 seconds) to reflect and honor those that gave all and are unable to attend with us seems a small thing.
I do not have children of this age so I was unfamiliar with the symbolism of the different colored sashes the students wore. As I referenced the program, it hit me. As I scrolled down the list of vestments worn by students who are members of various organizations or to denote outstanding achievements, I noticed one missing. Though one graduate wore the black 'US ARMY' stole, this accomplishment was not on the list. The student I was there to support had already committed himself and his life to an organization much higher than the math club or an academic society. He has enlisted himself in the U.S. Army.
I listened to the principal and superintendent list many accomplishments of the school staff, highlight the athletic successes, and detail the academic achievements of the last year, all things worthy of recognition. I listened to the number of scholarships given to the student body, the number of states where they will attend college, and many other numbers that signified that this group of young adults did some great things.
But there was one number missing: no one shared the number of graduates who had enlisted in the military.
I don't know how many graduates were committing themselves to the military; I knew there was at least one. This young man, only 17 years old, signed up to protect and serve his county, to defend this nation at all cost. He has vowed to die for this country and every other life in this arena, if necessary, but his brave sacrifices went unspoken. It is because of these brave and selfless decisions made by young men and women, that we live in a free county, a country where we are free to conduct such graduation ceremonies honoring all students, all accomplishments.
At minimum, these young men and women should be listed with the school's successes. They deserve to have their military-issued sashes noted in the program. It's so fortunate that school leaders live in a country with so many comforts and conveniences that they are quick to take for granted the sacrifices made by the generations, and their own students that follow them.
I hope school officials enjoy their families and sleep well tonight knowing their well being lies in the hands of and is in thanks to these men and women. I hope they realize how lucky they are to wear a tie and pants to work and not camouflage and an AK47 on their back.
These young soldiers are fighting for our freedom and all the while these officials; these leaders of our community didn't have the respect or common courtesy to include a young man's commitment to freedom and military service as worthy of mention in the high school graduation celebration.
Williams, a military spouse, lives in Williamsburg.