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When We Are Not Watching: Paying Respect To The United States Flag And Honoring Our Military Children

Last night, while driving through my son’s high school parking lot a fellow parent captured a photo of two teen boys.  The parent posted the photo to Facebook and at first glance you may think they were just taking a break from their bike ride.  However, if you knew the song which was playing as this photo was taken, you’d know why they stopped.

Had this photo been a video instead, you’d hear the United States Air Force Band playing our National Anthem before a lacrosse game.  Upon hearing the song, these two teens stopped their bike ride, removed their hats, and silently stood out of respect to our Nation’s flag and all that it stands for.

As of today, the Facebook post has received more than 500 likes and 75 comments.  I’m honored to know that while I was standing inside the high school stadium, it was my son and his friend who were captured in the photo.  I proudly commented on the post, sharing that my son’s father is a veteran, that I work for the VA, that my grandfather was at Normandy on D Day, and that my son is a true patriot.

After reading the Facebook posts’ comments and as we come to the end of April’s Month of the Military Child, I’m reminded of two things.  First, that we as a community must educate our youth on the meaning behind our Nation’s flag and second, that we must take the time to understand the experience of our military/veteran connected children and youth.

Sit down with a child or youth and learn more about flag protocol by visiting our website.  Take a moment to watch the video on proper folding of the flag and learn the meaning behind each fold.  On Memorial Day, attend one of our veteran cemetery ceremonies with members of our younger generation.  Attendance will provide an excellent opportunity to educate on the significance of this day, the role of an honor guard, the respect paid to our flag, and the meaning behind Taps.

Just as there is much to teach our younger generation, there is much we can learn from the service of military connected children.  During April’s Month of the Military Child, we are encouraged to pay tribute to the resilience displayed by the more than two million children of active duty, National Guard and Reserve personnel, and veterans.  The Military Child Education Coalition has the mission to “support all military connected children by educating, advocating, and collaborating to resolve education challenges associated with the military lifestyle”.  The organization offers resources and training opportunities for parents, students, and professionals on the military child’s experience.  I encourage anyone reading this blog to visit the Coalition’s website to learn more.

Raising teenagers sure can be tough, especially in today’s digital age.  Seeing the photo of my son and his friend standing still, hats on their chest, while the National Anthem played, reminded me that while he may hem and haw at some of the things his mom teaches him, he’s getting ‘it’.  Our children must be taught the significance of the United States flag and why we take pause when our National Anthem is played.  We as a community must also honor the significance of the service of our military/veteran connected children and youth.  Let us never forget to honor them, too.

Dana Burl, Outreach Program Director
MD Department of Veterans Affairs

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