A survey of high-risk teens asked with whom did they feel safe and protected. The options the survey gave were: EMT’s, police officers, lawyers, doctors, and veterans. The troubled youth valued the veterans and said they respected them the most. Thus, mentoring programs began between vets and teens who live in some of the high-crime “war-zones” of America.
Those who have served in our Armed Forces during times of peace and times of war have surely done so with our children in mind. Over the years, our armed forces have served to protect our freedom and our way of life, hoping their actions would enable future generations to experience the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Perhaps as writers of children’s literature, we should consider that many of today’s veterans still care about the next generation.
A few years ago, my family received reminders of that when we attended our first Veterans Day parade.
Veterans Day Parade Displays Value
A chilly breeze blew the little American flags we held in our hands. When the parade began, I realized I had not come well-prepared.
It wasn’t the cold air that jolted me. It was the row upon row of fresh-faced JROTC students. Representing various branches of the armed services, they marched with confidence and pride. It was sobering to think this could be our next generation of freedom fighters.
Then, we noticed the adults marching alongside them.
Veterans Mentor the Next Generation
The students were led by retired veterans of the armed services. Numerous retired service personnel share their time, knowledge, and skills with the youth in their own communities.
For many of the high-risk teens, the veterans are the only ones who invest time with them. As a result, they have encouraging role-models for self-discipline, hard work, and perseverance.
Veterans Make History Come Alive
For some students, history seems like a bunch of facts and dates to be memorized for a test and nothing more.
However, veterans make history come alive. Their presence stirs thoughts about those who have served in the past. They show students the names in the history books, on the grave markers, and on the memorial walls are not just names. They represent real people—someone’s son, daughter, husband, wife, dad, or mom.
Veterans Model Service
Much to my ten-year-old son’s delight, a veteran spoke to him after the parade.
When veterans speak in classrooms or volunteer at events, youth hear and see examples of what it means to serve others.
In addition, veterans present opportunities for further understanding. New insights may occur about the various roles of our armed services. For instance, how the military strives to bring peace in the midst of chaotic situations. Perhaps veterans will inspire the next generation to learn how to work together and resolve conflicts.
Best Day Ever
After the parade, our son, who was just beginning to understand the value of freedom and the cost of protecting it, declared it was “one of the best days, ever!”
Usually, he only says that after his birthday or a visit to a theme park. He didn’t receive candy or a souvenir at the parade. So, perhaps the veterans impressed something in his young heart as much as they did mine.
We may never fully grasp the sacrifices some have made. But we appreciate their service to our country and how they continue to influence lives today.
Veterans are valuable to us all. Perhaps we should remember this when we write for youth.
Has a character, who is a veteran, ever appeared in your writing?
Want to watch a Veterans Day Parade? Check for in-person viewing as well as virtual updates in your area at military.com.
(Survey Source) Jaafari, Joseph. “An Unlikely Bond Between Chicago Teens And Veterans Is Saving Lives In The City”. Nationswell, 2020, https://nationswell.com/chicago-veterans-teens/.
A freelance writer, Sally Matheny’s writing is published in worldwide, national, regional, online and print publications including Appleseeds, Clubhouse Jr., Homeschooling Today, Practical Homeschooling, Keys for Kids, and The Old Schoolhouse. Sally also writes history curriculum and is pounding away on several children’s books.
Blogging at SallyMatheny.com, she encourages people to use the power of story, history, and His Story to tell the next generation wondrous things.
Connect with Sally:
Facebook page: Sally Matheny – Encourager, Writer, Speaker